Manchester City started brightly, with the Champions League defeat to Napoli last week a distant memory but Liverpool were powerful opponents, who slowly wrestled control with a thoroughly organised, hard‑running and skilful performance.
By smothering the passing opportunities for City's midfielders, Liverpool's five-man midfield gradually negated the visitors' rhythm. Crucially they prevented David Silva from dictating the clever passing movements that have created much of the trouble for opposing defences this season.
No one Liverpool player was designated to man-mark the Spaniard, but whether it was Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson or Lucas Leiva, they each beavered away to stop his supply and close his space, while in the wide areas, Stewart Downing's role in this pressuring was important.
Relying on Luis Suárez twisting and turning up front and gaining several free-kicks, Liverpool showed enormous amounts of energy and effort to race forward and join in attacks.
City's centre-backs, Joleon Lescott and Vincent Kompany, dealt well on the whole with a difficult afternoon. Although Sergio Agüero had a similar role to Suárez in attack, his early trickery faded and his team-mates wilted as Liverpool slowly stifled the exciting creative talents of Roberto Mancini's men.
Samir Nasri was replaced and even Silva was finally withdrawn, while the enigmatic Mario Balotelli was sent off after picking up a second yellow card with seven minutes remaining, on this occasion a little unluckily.
Liverpool kept their shape well. Their outlet, the free-running Downing, grew in confidence on the left, while on the right, Dirk Kuyt's energy levels never cease to amaze. As the game developed, and buoyed by Lescott's own goal, Liverpool sensed a win – what they have shown the Premier League is a way of thwarting City's talented group.
Opening up the game with two central midfield players will not stop City. Man-marking Silva is an option, but committed pressuring in midfield, with each man covering closely, worked well here.
As the game gathered pace, Joe Hart earned his corn in the City goal, saving brilliantly from a number of Liverpool efforts. Watching from the stands, the injured Steven Gerrard must have enjoyed this statement of Liverpool's intent.
Kenny Dalglish has turned his group into a solid unit, balancing each player's talents without having to integrate Andy Carroll's strengths. Unquestionably Liverpool will be in the mix for a Champions League place as the season progresses.