LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Philippe Coutinho scored a late winner against Manchester City at Anfield for the second straight season as Liverpool won 2-1 on Sunday to dent the champions’ chances of hauling in Premier League leader Chelsea.
The in-form Brazilian playmaker capped another impressive display by curling in a superb shot from 25 meters in the 75th minute.
Captain Jordan Henderson scored a similar goal to put Liverpool ahead in the 11th and although Edin Dzeko equalized in the 25th after a slick move, City was sluggish in a match it needed to win to keep the pressure on Chelsea.
City stayed five points behind Chelsea but has played a game more. Chelsea was playing in the League Cup final later Sunday against Tottenham.
Liverpool climbed above Southampton to fifth and stayed two points behind Manchester United in the race for Champions League qualification.
City managed to recover last April from Coutinho’s winning goal — that time in the 78th minute — to go on a winning run and pip Liverpool to the title. It will take another huge effort to overcome Chelsea — especially on this evidence.
Liverpool, which is unbeaten in the league since Dec. 14, was expected to be drained from a grueling Europa League midweek journey to Besiktas — where it lost on penalties, but Brendan Rodgers’ team looked fresher than a sluggish City.
And in Coutinho, Liverpool had the best player on the pitch, continuing his great run of form from the start of the year.
Leading striker Daniel Sturridge started on the bench for Liverpool after playing almost the whole game against Besiktas, but a front three of Adam Lallana, Coutinho and Raheem Sterling caused City’s defense problems throughout the first half.
Two of them played key roles in the opening goal, as Coutinho nipped in front of Vincent Kompany to pounce on Pablo Zabaleta’s weak, short pass and played in Sterling. His sideways ball was taken on by Henderson, who curled a brilliant shot into the top corner from 25 meters.
Lallana wasted two great chances — and had a goal disallowed for a marginal offside — while Sterling also exposed City’s weakness at center back to breeze past Eliaquim Mangala and shoot across the face of goal. City was fortunate to be level at halftime.
Aguero, who struck a shot against the post soon after Henderson’s goal, cut inside and slipped in a pass that Dzeko ran onto and shot first time low into the corner. It vindicated Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to start Dzeko ahead of new signing Wilfried Bony for a third straight game.
City was one-paced after the break, despite the importance of picking up three points, and Liverpool created all the chances.
Sterling miscued from in front of goal and another Lallana goal was ruled out for an earlier offside. Coutinho made no mistake, though, cutting inside past Samir Nasri and curling a shot beyond goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Aguero and David Silva had late chances for City, but an equalizer would have been harsh on Liverpool.
This article was written by Steve Douglas from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.