Fernando Torres scored his eighth consecutive goal at Anfield as Liverpool completed a comfortable win over Manchester City. The solitary strike was scant reward for a dominant display that should have reaped more goals, particularly during a second half in which Joe Hart's goal came under constant siege.
With Liverpool's title prospects having long since evaporated there was a subdued air at Anfield, not least as a result of the Reds' Champions League exit in midweek, and it was perhaps understandable that it took the home side a while to warm to their task. They eventually worked an opening after 20 minutes when Ryan Babel stole in at the near post to glance Dirk Kuyt's right-wing cross inches over the bar.
Steven Gerrard, who gave a typically commanding performance at the apex of the hosts' midfield, twice went close before the break with two fine attempts on goal. The first, a low 30-yarder, flew a yard wide of the target on 26 minutes, but his second, five minutes later, was destined for the far corner of Hart's net until the City goalkeeper, at full stretch, tipped it expertly wide.
The visitors, whose supporters gave manager Sven-Goran Eriksson a rousing reception on what was almost certainly his penultimate match as City manager, passed the ball around nicely in patches and were unfortunate to see one sweeping move brought to a premature close by an erroneous offside flag, but the only real threat came from the home side, for whom the pace of Babel and Torres frightened the life out of City's labouring rearguard.
Torres's acceleration was put to good use two minutes after the re-start when Gerrard played him through with an exquisite pass with the outside of his right foot. The Spanish striker showed the City defence a clean pair of heels but passed up the chance to score by steering his shot wide of the far post. Kuyt had only just squandered a free header at the far post when Gerrard picked him out with a corner and Liverpool were almost made to suffer for their wastefulness when Martin Petrov beat Pepe Reina with a 20-yard free-kick. Unfortunately for Eriksson's side, though, the Brazilian's curling effort came back off the post.
As if chastened by the warning, Torres made no mistake with his next chance. Latching on to a pass from midfield, the Spaniard powered past Richard Dunne before dispatching a deft, angled finish under Hart. City were then swamped and Hart had to be at his best to beat out first a fierce volley from Kuyt and then Lucas's acrobatic follow-up. On 64 minutes Kuyt headed Sami Hyypia's perfectly-flighted cross against the crossbar and two minutes later Babel missed a sitter as Torres somehow stayed on his feet despite Dunne's attempts to hack him down, worked his way to the by-line and cut the ball back for the Dutchman, who spooned over from all of six yards.
City spluttered into life in the latter stages, Benjani Mwaruwari's piledriver of a free-kick warming the palms of Reina with 10 minutes to go. And the lively former Portsmouth striker caused momentary panic in the Liverpool area with a cut-back from the right that Steve Finnan almost turned into his own net. As the game became stretched Torres brought another save out of Hart with a fierce strike from range but there would be no addition to the striker's 32 goals in his first season in English football, who had to settle for sharing Roger Hunt's 46-year-old record of scoring in eight consecutive games at Anfield.
Jose Manuel Reina, Sami Hyypia, Emiliano Insua, Steve Finnan, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard (Andriy Voronin, 78), Lucas Leiva (Xabi Alonso, 74), Javier Mascherano, Ryan Babel (Yossi Benayoun, 68), Dirk Kuyt, Fernando Torres
Manchester City Joe Hart, Vedran Corluka, Sun Jihai, Michael Ball, Richard Dunne, Blumer Elano (Dietmar Hamann, 67), Stephen Ireland, Michael Johnson, Martin Petrov (Nery Castillo, 67), Darius Vassell (Javier Garrido, 81), Benjani Mwaruwari
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