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Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012

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Back on track: Manchester City's Yaya Toure celebrates after scoring against Liverpool in City's 3-0 win on Tuesday. AP

City reasserts title credentials

League-leaders crush Liverpool to recover from festive slump


LONDON — Manchester City rediscovered its attacking flair to sweep aside Liverpool with a 3-0 victory that reasserted the English Premier League leader's title credentials on Tuesday.

A lackluster Christmas period saw City lose at Sunderland and draw at West Bromwich Albion, but the side started 2012 more ruthlessly back at Eastlands.

The 100 percent home record was extended to 10 matches after Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina gifted Sergio Aguero a soft opener, Yaya Toure exploited poor defending to head home and James Milner scored from the penalty spot even after City midfielder Gareth Barry had been sent off.

"We were incredibly efficient and it's a great win," City captain Vincent Kompany said. "It is one of the top six teams out of the way and now we know United and the other teams have to play each other."

City has a three-point lead over Manchester United and is a further three points ahead of Tottenham, which beat West Brom 1-0 on Tuesday.

Liverpool went into the match at City still dealing with the fallout from Luis Suarez's repeated racial abuse of Manchester United defender Patrice Evra in October.

Accepting an eight-match ban while still protesting the punishment hours before Tuesday's game meant Suarez's suspension immediately kicked in.

And with it, Liverpool lost its biggest threat and crashed to just its second defeat in 18 matches.

"If you want to be a successful team, and they are one, you have got to be clinical," Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said. "We've got to get that into our makeup. Tonight we never had that. It's a lesson learned for us."

City took just 10 minutes to go in front, with Milner releasing David Silva, who in turn fed Aguero, and the striker's 20-meter shot passed under Reina's diving body into the net.

It was slack marking from Silva's 33rd-minute corner that allowed Toure to head in the second off the underside of the crossbar.

Even bringing on the experienced duo of Steven Gerrard and Craig Bellamy after the break could not spark a Liverpool revival.

Neither could City being reduced to 10 men from the 73rd when Barry, booked for a first-half foul on Jay Spearing, bumped into Daniel Agger and was sent off.

Within a minute of that, Martin Skrtel's foul on Toure gave City a penalty kick that Milner sent high into the net.

City manager Roberto Mancini apologized later for brandishing an imaginary yellow card on the touchline at Skrtel.

"In the moment maybe I did that because I was not happy with the referee, but I made a mistake," he said.

City will now be hoping United slips up against Newcastle on Wednesday to maintain its three-point lead over the champions.

For now, Tottenham is just three points behind United thanks to Jermain Defoe's 63rd-minute goal against West Brom.

Making his first start after an injury-hit month, Defoe scored on the turn in a crowded penalty area after being picked out by Gareth Bale.

"It was a hard night," Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said. "They set up to be difficult to beat."

West Brom is 15th in the standings, seven points above the relegation zone.

In the night's other game, Sunderland earned its fourth victory since Martin O'Neill replaced Steve Bruce as manager last month, routing Wigan 4-1.

Craig Gardner, James McClean, Stephane Sessegnon and David Vaughan scored for Sunderland, which rose to 10th in the standings, while Hugo Rodallega scored for 18th-place Wigan.

Liverpool will not appeal


LONDON — Liverpool will not appeal against Luis Suarez's eight-match ban for repeatedly racially abusing an opponent during a match, even though the striker again defended his actions and the club renewed its criticism of the English Football Association's disciplinary panel on Tuesday.

By accepting the punishment despite not accepting culpability, Suarez is not scheduled to be eligible again until the Feb. 11 match against Manchester United, whose defender, Patrice Evra, was the target of the striker's insults.

"I will comply with the sanction, but with the acquiescence of someone who has not done anything and who feels extremely upset about what has transpired," Suarez said on his Twitter account.

The Uruguay international will also have to pay a £40,000 ($62,000)-fine for calling Evra "negro" or "negros" seven times in October during a 1-1 draw at Anfield.

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