Premier League - Carroll brace as Liverpool down City
The England striker, who scored his first international goal against Ghana two weeks ago, was at times unplayable with new best friend Luis Suarez as he scored a first-half brace either side of Dirk Kuyt’s strike.
The victory - by the same scoreline that Liverpool dropped to defeat in Manchester on the second day of the season - keeps Liverpool’s hopes of European football alive: they stay sixth and move five points behind fifth-placed Tottenham. Defeat for City meanwhile stops them from rising above Chelsea into third, with the London side holding a game in hand.
Worryingly for City - who have only taken two away points from a possible 18 in 2011 - Tottenham are three points behind them, with a game in hand.
Carroll was injured when he arrived in a £35 million transfer-deadline day deal from Newcastle and has been eased in gradually - and on a rainy night in Merseyside he showed just why Liverpool broke the bank for a player imperious in the air and deft with the ball at his feet.
While Liverpool were excellent going forward they were also impressive at the back, making the most of an injury crisis that has robbed them of Daniel Agger, Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly and Sotiris Kyrgiakos as the lively John Flanagan made his first-team debut.
After an impeccable minute’s silence - combining tributes for the Hillsborough anniversary, the late wife of David Fairclough and a Reds fan killed on active duty in Afghanistan - Liverpool dominated from kick-off as City barely got a sniff.
The frontline of Carroll, Kuyt and Suarez was at times unplayable, with the trio combining on five minutes as Kuyt spooned a shot over.
Seconds later Suarez was played in by Carroll’s delightful through-ball but denied by a fine Joe Hart save, touched on to the post.
On 13 minutes the hosts took a deserved lead as Carroll opened his Liverpool account in style, smacking home a bullet of a half-volley with his famed left foot after Raul Meireles had a shot blocked by Vincent Kompany.
It was a fine strike and gave the hosts even more confidence as they bossed possession for the rest of the half, City limited to the occasional run from Adam Johnson and a cross-shot from Aleksandr Kolarov that a sliding Mario Balotelli was agonisingly close from converting.
Balotelli was only on the pitch because, in the build-up to the opening goal, Carlos Tevez pulled up with a hamstring problem - the City skipper is now a major doubt for the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United.
The Italian was impressive in the first half, in stark contrast to largely anonymous strike partner Edin Dzeko who appears to be struggling with the early adaptation period to English football.
Liverpool doubled their lead following an incessant spell of pressure that saw Meireles, Suarez, Carroll and Fabio Aurelio all have efforts blocked in a 60-second period: eventually the ball dropped to Kuyt, who made no mistake with a placed low finish across Hart into the bottom left.
And within seconds it was 3-0, Carroll rising with a towering header to guide Meireles’s cross past Hart and into the right-hand side of goal.
City could not wait for half-time and they put in a far better shift afterwards.
Liverpool were still the better side - Carroll had an effort bravely blocked by Gareth Barry, Kuyt and Lucas headed wide from good positions and Suarez fluffed his lines after a super spell of Reds pressure.
But City were at least competitive as Balotelli and fellow sub David Silva put efforts wide, with Silva building better attacks than previous incumbent James Milner, who flounced off somewhat uncharacteristically after being substituted.
Kuyt had a low effort fly wide after more good interplay with Suarez, who matched his skill with tireless endeavour even if at times things did not go for him in front of goal.
Meireles stung the palms of Hart after good work from Kuyt, while down the other end the otherwise anonymous Yaya Toure did likewise to the otherwise untested Pep Reina from all of 30 yards.
Balotelli suffered the indignity of being a subbed-sub as he was replaced by De Jong with Roberto Mancini looking to shore things up late on, although it should have been Dzeko making way: his night was typified when Silva’s excellent cross struck him on the head, the Bosnian utterly unawares as he bumbled about in the penalty area.
Carroll almost sealed his hat-trick, looping a header just over late on after excellent wide play from Suarez, but the sight of the club-record signing playing 90 minutes will delight Kenny Dalglish - he was spared stoppage time though, given a standing ovation as he was replaced by David N’Gog.
The result puts more power in the hands of Dalglish, who wants the Liverpool job on a permanent basis in the summer, while Mancini will be furious at a lack of heart from his team whose terrible away run continues - they have not won on their travels in the league since the turn of the year.