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Man City, Liverpool set stage for thrilling second half at the Etihad

Britain Soccer Premier League

Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany, obscured at the left, scores against Liverpool during their English Premier League soccer match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England, Thursday Dec. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

AP

Boxing Day’s final match is turning out to be an end-to-end thriller with frantic action.

The stage is set for a grand finale after a first 45 minutes with scoring and controversy. City provided the pressure early as Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo each came close to taking a zero off the board. Vincent Kompany then headed down and wide off a corner kick.

Yet Liverpool struck first, and rightly so after having an earlier goal wiped out for what seemed to be a dubious offsides call. The goal came when Raheem Sterling moved deftly past a sliding Joe Hart before deferring to Phillippe Coutinho. He slotted home into an yawning net from a not-so-easy angle to move ahead 1-0 in the 24th minute.

WATCH THE SECOND HALF LIVE ON NBCSN AND ONLINE VIA NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA

Kompany came to the City’s rescue with another headed-down effort off a corner, this one moving past Mignolet to level the score in the 31st minute. Joe Allen probably could’ve done better to clear the goal off the line.

Coutinho was robbed by Joe Hart in the 40th minute after Liverpool worked its way into prime real estate via Sterling’s chip and Luis Suarez’s one-touch pass. The Brazilian was on the doorstep but the maligned Hart was incredible in parrying a right-footed effort aside.

Manchester City continued its streak of scoring two or more goals at home, a feat that traces back to May, when Navas slid a pass to Negredo. He hit a hard shot with the outside of his left foot that ignored a lackadaisical Simon Mignolet’s paw and gave City a 2-1 halftime lead.

Follow @nicholasmendola