By Phil McNultyChief football writer at the Etihad Stadium
Manchester City recovered from their shock defeat at Sunderland and opened up a three-point gap at the top of the Premier League table with a comfortable victory over Liverpool.
Roberto Mancini's side faced a test of character and resilience with a swift turnaround to play again only 48 hours
after the loss at the Stadium of Light
- and they passed the examination impressively.
Liverpool were denied striker Luis Suarez's potency as they decided
not to appeal against the eight-game ban
handed down after the Football Association found the Uruguayan guilty of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
And they sorely missed Suarez's menace as they enjoyed plenty of possession but never threatened to turn it into tangible reward.
Mancini incredulous at Man City fixtures
Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina's error gifted Sergio Aguero an early goal and Yaya Toure rose to head home David Silva's corner for a second before the break.
The only blot on City's night came when Gareth Barry was sent off for a second yellow card, which means he misses Sunday's FA Cup third round tie against Manchester United, but they sealed the win when James Milner scored from the spot after Martin Skrtel fouled Yaya Toure.
It gave City the advantage over closest rivals United before their visit to Newcastle on Wednesday and enabled them to regain momentum after a goalless draw at West Bromwich Albion and the 1-0 reverse at Sunderland.
Liverpool's efforts lacked punch despite the vast expense lavished on their forward line by manager Kenny Dalglish and they ended well beaten.
Stewart Downing was thwarted by Joe Hart's crucial early block from Jordan Henderson's fine pass before Reina gifted City their opening goal.
Manchester City have not been beaten at home since the 2-1 defeat by Everton in December 2010
Aguero's shot was testing in the stormy conditions but the Spaniard made the basic error of failing to get his body behind the ball and the 20-yard shot dipped underneath him to relieve City's early nerves.
The Argentine then lifted a shot just over before Edin Dzeko's effort took a heavy deflection off Glen Johnson and flew inches wide with the anxious Reina totally wrong-footed.
As Liverpool appeared to be getting a foothold in proceedings, the hosts struck again 12 minutes before the interval.
Reina made amends for his earlier error by turning Vincent Kompany's header over the top, but when Silva returned the resulting corner Yaya Toure got ahead of Johnson to head high past the the visiting keeper.
Kompany made a vital intervention at the other end to ensure City protected their two-goal lead until half-time, throwing himself bravely in front of Dirk Kuyt's shot as the Dutchman moved to turn in Andy Carroll's header.
Liverpool must take defeat on the chin - Dalglish
Once more the Reds saw plenty of the ball after the restart, but their lack of threat prompted Dalglish to make a double change just before the hour mark, sending on Steven Gerrard and former Manchester City striker Craig Bellamy for the disappointing Charlie Adam and Kuyt.
They failed to make any serious inroads into the home defence, although they were given brief hope when Barry was sent off for a second yellow card, an innocuous block on Daniel Agger, with 17 minutes left.
If they did have any hopes of a revival, they were snuffed out two minutes later when referee Mike Jones - a late replacement for Andre Marriner, who refereed the match in which Suarez had his flashpoint with Evra in October - pointed to the spot after Skrtel tangled with Yaya Toure.
After Mancini had failed in demands to have Skrtel sent off by waving an imaginary red card, Milner converted the penalty emphatically.
Substitute Adam Johnson struck the post with a curling effort as City pressed again, but matters had already been settled well before.
Liverpool kept going and tested City keeper Hart with some late efforts from Gerrard and Downing, but he was more than equal to the task on a bitterly disappointing night for Dalglish's side.
Stewart Downing takes a shot. Save made by Joe Hart.
Edin Dzeko concedes a free kick for a foul on Martin Skrtel. Free kick taken by Martin Skrtel.
Sanchez Jose Enrique crosses the ball, save made by Joe Hart.
Steven Gerrard takes a shot. Save by Joe Hart.
Martin Skrtel takes a shot. Save made by Joe Hart. Rodriguez Maxi takes a shot. Joe Hart makes a save. Corner from right by-line taken by Craig Bellamy.
The ball is crossed by Steven Gerrard.
Shot by Rodriguez Maxi from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the goal.
Edin Dzeko takes a shot. Blocked by Martin Skrtel.
The ball is crossed by Sanchez Jose Enrique, clearance by Vincent Kompany.
The ball is swung over by Sanchez Jose Enrique, Joe Hart makes a comfortable save.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Stewart Downing on Gael Clichy. Direct free kick taken by Gael Clichy.
Steven Gerrard has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box missing to the wide right of the target.
Adam Johnson takes a shot from outside the penalty box and hits the post.
Edin Dzeko gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jose Reina. Free kick taken by Jose Reina.
Effort by Sanchez Jose Enrique from a long way out goes over the crossbar.
Corner taken by Craig Bellamy from the left by-line, clearance by Vincent Kompany.
Foul by Adam Johnson on Daniel Agger, free kick awarded. Sanchez Jose Enrique takes the direct free kick.
Substitution Rodriguez Maxi comes on in place of Jay Spearing.
Substitution (Man City) makes a substitution, with Joleon Lescott coming on for David Silva.
Gnegneri Toure Yaya provided the assist for the goal.
74:35 Goal scored
Goal! - James Milner - Man City 3 - 0 Liverpool Power penalty scored by James Milner. Man City 3-0 Liverpool.
Martin Skrtel gives away a Penalty for an unfair challenge on Gnegneri Toure Yaya.
Craig Bellamy restarts play with the free kick.
Dismissal Gareth Barry sent off.
Unfair challenge on Daniel Agger by Gareth Barry results in a free kick.
Substitution (Man City) makes a substitution, with Adam Johnson coming on for Sergio Aguero.
Gareth Barry challenges Steven Gerrard unfairly and gives away a free kick. Shot comes in from Steven Gerrard from the free kick, Kolo Toure makes a clearance.
Steven Gerrard produces a cross, clearance made by Gareth Barry.
Effort from outside the penalty area by Craig Bellamy goes wide left of the target.
Craig Bellamy decides to take a short corner. The ball is delivered by Craig Bellamy, Andy Carroll takes a shot. Save by Joe Hart.
The ball is swung over by Sanchez Jose Enrique, clearance by Kolo Toure.
Free kick taken by Vincent Kompany.
Substitution Dirk Kuyt leaves the field to be replaced by Craig Bellamy.
Substitution Charlie Adam leaves the field to be replaced by Steven Gerrard.
Booking Glen Johnson receives a yellow card.
Foul by Glen Johnson on Sergio Aguero, free kick awarded.
Unfair challenge on Andy Carroll by Vincent Kompany results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Jay Spearing.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Kolo Toure by Charlie Adam. Free kick taken by Joe Hart.
Stewart Downing takes a shot. Kolo Toure gets a block in.
The ball is swung over by Charlie Adam, Vincent Kompany manages to make a clearance.
Sanchez Jose Enrique produces a cross, clearance made by Vincent Kompany. Short corner worked by Charlie Adam. Charlie Adam sends in a cross, clearance by Vincent Kompany.
Gareth Barry challenges Jay Spearing unfairly and gives away a free kick. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Charlie Adam from right channel, clearance made by Vincent Kompany. A cross is delivered by Glen Johnson.
The referee blows his whistle to start the second half.
45:00 +1:01 Half time
Half Time The half-time whistle blows.
Free kick taken by Daniel Agger.
Booking Gareth Barry goes into the referee's book.
Unfair challenge on Jay Spearing by Gareth Barry results in a free kick.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Charlie Adam by Edin Dzeko. Free kick taken by Daniel Agger.
Charlie Adam challenges Gnegneri Toure Yaya unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Joe Hart.
Dirk Kuyt takes a shot. Vincent Kompany gets a block in.
Edin Dzeko takes a shot. Sanchez Jose Enrique gets a block in. Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Edin Dzeko by Charlie Adam. David Silva produces a strike on goal direct from the free kick.
Effort on goal by Andy Carroll from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the goal.
Centre by James Milner, save by Jose Reina.
Stewart Downing is penalised for a handball. Kolo Toure takes the free kick.
David Silva provided the assist for the goal.
32:31 Goal scored
Goal! - Gnegneri Toure Yaya - Man City 2 - 0 Liverpool Gnegneri Toure Yaya finds the back of the net with a headed goal from close in. Man City 2-0 Liverpool.
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by James Milner from the left by-line to the near post, Vincent Kompany takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina. Inswinging corner taken left-footed by David Silva,
Foul by Kolo Toure on Charlie Adam, free kick awarded. Jordan Henderson produces a strike on goal direct from the free kick.
Centre by Stewart Downing, clearance by James Milner.
Shot from outside the area by Jordan Henderson misses to the left of the goal.
Centre by Charlie Adam, clearance by Micah Richards.
The ball is swung over by Dirk Kuyt, blocked by Gareth Barry. Corner taken short by Charlie Adam.
Free kick awarded for a foul by David Silva on Stewart Downing. Charlie Adam fires a strike on goal direct from the free kick, Joe Hart makes a save.
Inswinging corner taken by James Milner, save made by Jose Reina.
Edin Dzeko takes a shot. Glen Johnson gets a block in.
Dirk Kuyt crosses the ball, save by Joe Hart.
The ball is swung over by Glen Johnson, Gael Clichy gets a block in. Inswinging corner taken by Charlie Adam from the right by-line played to the near post, clearance made by Vincent Kompany.
Gael Clichy fouled by Andy Carroll, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Gael Clichy.
Headed effort from the edge of the area by Andy Carroll goes wide of the right-hand upright.
Sergio Aguero challenges Jordan Henderson unfairly and gives away a free kick. Indirect free kick taken by Sanchez Jose Enrique.
James Milner takes the inswinging corner, Charlie Adam manages to make a clearance.
Sergio Aguero takes a shot. Jose Reina makes a save.
Unfair challenge on Sanchez Jose Enrique by Gareth Barry results in a free kick. Sanchez Jose Enrique takes the direct free kick.
Assist by David Silva.
9:54 Goal scored
Goal! - Sergio Aguero - Man City 1 - 0 Liverpool Sergio Aguero scores a goal from just outside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Man City 1-0 Liverpool.
Edin Dzeko takes a shot. Save made by Jose Reina. James Milner decides to take a short corner.
Stewart Downing takes a shot. Save made by Joe Hart.
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