Watch all the goals and key plays from Man City and Liverpool's huge showdown in the Premier League.
The Premier League's two-week holiday slate concluded with the biggest match of them all, and it did not disappoint.
Manchester City dealt Liverpool its first loss of the Premier League season in a match with massive title implications on Thursday, winning 2-1 to pull within four points of the league leaders.
Leroy Sane's 72nd-minute goal was the winner after Sergio Aguero and Roberto Firmino exchanged strikes, allowing Man City to leapfrog Tottenham into second place through 21 matches. Liverpool entered the match knowing it could extend its lead over the defending champions to 10 with a win, and while it had its moments, Man City had the better of the play and the positive side of the close calls–including a goal-line clearance from John Stones that prevented an early opener.
This was the second and final meeting of the season between the two sides, adding further emphasis and importance to the result. In their earlier matchup, they played to a 0-0 draw, with Riyad Mahrez missing a late penalty that would have swung the pendulum in Man City's favor.
Man City looked to come out aggressively and had the early edge in possession after pressure on Alisson forced a wayward clearance from the Liverpool goalkeeper, who entered the match having conceded only eight times in 20 games. The high press continued to bother Liverpool in the third minute, but Alisson was able to collect a cross by the near post as Aguero hovered by the goal line.
Liverpool remained patient and finally was able to break forward in the ninth minute. Sadio Mane found Firmino down the right-hand side, and his cross into the center was nearly headed into Man City's net by Fernandinho, but Ederson was quick to react and prevent the own goal.
Liverpool nearly went ahead nine minutes later. At the end of a great combination sparked by Mohamed Salah in the center of the field, the Egyptian played Mane in on goal. The Senegal star put his chance off the post, but Stones's ensuing clearance attempt ricocheted off Ederson and trickled toward the goal line. The English defender recovered in time and cleared the would-be own goal off the line, preserving the 0-0 scoreline. Goal-line technology showed that Liverpool was a few blades of grass from having the ball clear the line (NBC's broadcast announced it was a mere 1.12 centimeters) before Stones got to it.
Moments later, Ederson was forced into another save, corralling a volley from Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Man City's best chance in the final third came in the 28th minute, when Raheem Sterling was sprung free down the right-hand side. He crossed for David Silva in the box, but the Spanish international's first-time chance was blocked by Virgil Van Dijk before it could cause too much trouble.
Man City found the opener it was seeking in the 40th minute through a familiar face. Aguero, who has made a history of torching Liverpool at the Etihad, scored from a tight angle to make it 1-0. Moments after thinking he should have drawn a penalty, Aguero got up, positioned himself onside and then controlled Bernardo Silva's cross before finishing at the near post.
Man City thought it had earned a penalty six minutes into the second half. Sterling was trying to cut back in the box on Andy Robertson, who appeared to hold him as the two went to ground. Referee Anthony Taylor had none of it though, waving play on and swallowing the whistle.
Liverpool pulled even just after the hour mark. Alexander-Arnold started the sequence with a gorgeous cross-field ball for his opposite fullback, Robertson. The left back lofted a first-time volley from the far post to the near post, where an unmarked, onside and diving Firmino headed home from the doorstep to make it 1-1 in the 64th minute.
The level scoreline didn't stand for long. Off a brilliant move out of the back started by Danilo, Man City retook the lead. Sane did the honors on the scoring end, delivering a precise left-footed blast off the far post and in to give City a 2-1 edge.
City nearly extended the lead to 3-1 in the 82nd minute. After a sequence of desperate defending, Sterling broke City forward and sprung Aguero in on goal. The forward tried to round Alisson, but the Brazilian goalkeeper stayed with it and made the save from a tight angle to keep things at 2-1.
Alisson's counterpart then made a great late save of his own, robbing Salah from a tight angle by deflecting his chance enough to let the ball trickle wide of the far post.
As the clock hit 90 minutes, City should have padded its lead. Bernardo Silva had a close-range chance blocked by Alisson, but the rebound fell to an unmarked Sterling some 15 yards from goal, straightaway. The former Liverpool star simply missed the target, hooking his chance and giving his old team a lifeline.
Liverpool couldn't quite find the equalizer, though, leaving the door open for City and Spurs in a title race that marches on following a hectic holiday fixture list.
Here were the lineups for both teams:
Both clubs will turn their focus to the FA Cup next, with Man City hosting Rotherham United on Sunday and Liverpool traveling to face Wolverhampton on Monday in the third round of the competition.