LONDON – Manchester City went top of the Premier League table yesterday as it beat Aston Villa, 4-1, while Manchester United needed a late equalizer to force a 1-1 draw at Liverpool.
City stands two points clear after an emphatic performance, but most of the attention was on the clash of English football’s two most successful sides at Anfield.
Javier Hernandez got the United equalizer, coming off the bench to score with nine minutes remaining. Steven Gerrard, making his first start in six months, had scored the opener after 68 minutes.
“I’m sure our fans will feel a little bit hard done by with the chances at the end, we could have nicked it,” Gerrard told Sky Sports 2.
Gerrard had been as guilty as anybody of wasting possessions in a poor game, but it was he who broke the deadlock curling a low free-kick through the wall, between Danny Welbeck and Ryan Giggs who mysteriously pulled away, and inside David de Gea’s left-hand post.
“The free-kick wasn’t the best, the intention was to get it over the wall, but a couple of years ago at Old Trafford the same thing happened, the wall split,” Gerrard admitted. “Maybe it’s just the bit of luck I was looking for in my first game back.”
Ferguson immediately brought on Nani, Wayne Rooney and Hernandez, and it was the Mexico striker who leveled, heading after nine minutes from time as Welbeck flicked on a left-winger corner.
“They created a couple of chances towards end, but for most of the second half I thought we controlled it and played good football,” said United defender Rio Ferdinand. “In the final third, if we’d made those good decisions, we could have had opportunities.”
At the Etihad Stadium, Mario Balotelli put City ahead with his fourth goal in four games, hooking a half-cleared corner over his head and past Shay Given after 28 minutes.
Goals early in the second half, the first scored by Adam Johnson, the second by Vincent Kompany from Johnson’s assist, settled the game.
Stephen Warnock rattled one in off the bar to make it 3-1, but James Milner soon restored the three-goal margin against his former club with a neat curler.
Chelsea moved a point behind United into third with a 3-1 victory over Everton. Daniel Sturridge put them ahead after 31 minutes, heading in after Ashley Cole had scooped Juan Mata’s brilliant pass across goal.
John Terry headed the second from a Frank Lampard free-kick on the stroke of half-time, and Ramires made it three just after the hour from a low Mata cross.
Apostolos Velios pulled one back with his first touch, but Chelsea were comfortable winners.
Jonathan Walters got the first 10 minutes from time and Rory Delap added a late second as Stoke City went seventh with a 2-0 win over Fulham.