City came from behind to secure a 2-1 win over Liverpool in a thrilling top-of-the-table clash at the Etihad Stadium.
Phillipe Coutinho gave the visitors the lead midway through the first-half, but goals from Vincent Kompany and Alvaro Negredo ensured the Blues overtook the Merseysiders and moved into second place in the table – though Manuel Pellegrini’s men are unlikely to face many better teams than Liverpool on this evidence.
Interestingly, with Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers promising to attempt to play in a similar style to Bayern Munich – the only team to succeed at the Etihad this season prior to this match – Pellegrini opted to play with just Negredo up front in a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation.
Being the last game of the day, the Blues already knew that title challengers Arsenal and Chelsea had secured maximum points, so a victory over the team who began the day as Premier League leaders was vital.
City took the game to Liverpool in the opening minutes and only a lick of paint denied Navas who reacted quickest to a deflected cross only to see his header brush the crossbar. Negredo then went close as he sent an Aleks Kolarov cross a few feet wide and Kompany headed wide as the Blues looked to gain the upper hand.
But City were served a warning on 20 minutes when Luis Suarez played Raheem Sterling clean through on goal only for the assistant referee’s flag to save the day – TV replays proved the Liverpool winger was clearly onside.
Four minutes later, there was no saving flag as Sterling again found space in the box and as he rounded Joe Hart, Coutinho finished the job as he tapped into the empty net.
It was the first time City had found themselves behind the in the Premier League at the Etihad this season and a genuine test of character for a team so used to bossing events on their own soil from start to finish.
The vast majority of the sell-out crowd didn’t have to wait long to see how their team would respond and, with Martin Skrtel attempting to not only pull Kompany’s shirt off his back from a corner but take it home as a souvenir during play, the City skipper got just enough contact to divert a David Silva corner into the net for the equaliser just past the half-hour.
The relief was tangible and in the moments after the goal, Liverpool continued to threaten. Five minutes before the break, Coutinho forced a superb save from Hart from close range - but City had the final word of the first period.
Navas broke forward, fed Negredo and the man they call The Beast hit a powerful shot with the outside of his foot that seemed to confuse Simon Mignolet whose flapped attempt at a save couldn’t prevent the ball from bouncing into the net.
City survived a couple of early scares after the re-start and Hart had to make another fine save as a deep cross looked set to be tapped in by Jordan Henderson but the England keeper’s feet stopped a certain goal.
It was nip and tuck and it wasn’t hard to understand why Liverpool climbed to the summit this Christmas with their neat inter-play and movement causing numerous problems for the home defence.
Suarez, maintaining his irresistible form, was a thorn in the Blues’ defence all game and his superb cross in the 74th minute really should have produced an equaliser – but Sterling skied the ball from four yards out with the goal at his mercy.
There were chances for both teams to add to their tally in the closing stages, but City clung on to preserve their magnificent 100% home record after just edging a battle that lived up to all its pre-match hype.