Liverpool must learn to be title contenders

Liverpool may have been knocked off their perch with that Boxing Day loss to Manchester City, but the team would have learned plenty about themselves with this defeat.

Alvaro Negredo wheeled away in celebration as Liverpool's Martin Skrtel threw his hands up in despair, the afternoon air reverberating with the auditory joy of the sky blue-clad supporters filling the Etihad.

Just a yard from his line, a despondent Simon Mignolet rolled up onto his knees, staring dejectedly into space, knowing that his failure to turn away the Spaniard’s strike meant that Liverpool’s early lead had been wholly overturned in the span of a quarter-hour.

The Reds would fail to turn around their luck as the minutes waned in the second half - Raheem Sterling ballooning over the bar to send a golden chance begging, and Glen Johnson taking a heavy touch with Joe Hart’s goal gaping.

But despite the anguish of defeat, Liverpool will have gleaned a number of positives.

For one, the Merseysiders had put on a display by a visitor unprecedented at the Etihad in the current campaign, pushing the Citizens to the brink and coming within striking distance of denying the Mancunians a ninth straight league victory at home.

Previously, no other away opponent had tasted defeat at Eastlands this season by less than a margin of two goals, with Manchester United battered 4-1, Tottenham sent spiraling into crisis to the tune of 6-0 and Arsenal sitting on the receiving end of a 6-3 pasting.

But the baseline quality of Liverpool’s display in the most hostile environment they’ll face this season suggested that the Reds are capable of competing at the highest level. In no way did Manchester City outplay Liverpool. In some sense, it was Brendan Rodgers’ charges that were their own undoing, as the Reds came within inches of passing this difficult test with flying colours.

Still, another exam of great proportions looms just on the horizon with the trip to Stamford Bridge on Sunday - an immediate opportunity for Liverpool to put things right.

Needing to come to terms with the realities of the race for the title is more difficult for a side in uncharted waters, but the loss at the Etihad will have a silver lining - the match was a clear indication of what’s expected if the Premier League title is to be an achievable goal.

image: © banoootah_qtr

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