By Steve White
As a minute’s silence fell over Anfield before the tie, sunshine shone on the 96 seats left empty for those who went to a match 25 years ago and never came home
Liverpool FC skipper Steven Gerrard broke down in tears as his team paid a fitting tribute to the Hillsborough victims by taking a huge step towards Premier League glory.
As a minute’s silence fell over Anfield before the crunch tie with title rivals Manchester City, sunshine shone on the 96 seats left empty for those who went to a football match 25 years ago and never came home.
Gerrard’s cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley, 10, was the youngest to die and the captain, 33, could not contain his emotion as the final whistle blew on the Reds’ thrilling 3-2 victory.
He said afterwards: “That win means so much . They got back into the game but I think we showed we want to go to the wire.
“We want to go all the way.
“That’s the longest 90 minutes I’ve probably ever played in. It felt like the clock was going backwards in some parts of that game.”
Gerrard, whose top-placed team are four games away from a first league title in 24 years, added: “The scenes were great today and the fans are very happy.”
Before the match, supporters in the Kop end spelled out the message “96 – 25 years”.
And the away fans paid their respects with a banner which read “YNWA 96” (You’ll Never Walk Alone).
Ex-Manchester City stars Tony Book, Mike Summerbee and Joe Corrigan presented a wreath of 96 red and blue roses to Kop greats Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush.
After an emotional game, one Reds fan said: “I’ve been coming here for years and the atmosphere today was more electric than ever.
“It was a fantastic performance by the team and a fitting tribute to the 96.”
The annual memorial service will take place at Anfield on Tuesday – 25 years to the day since 96 fans were killed by crushing on the terraces during Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest in Sheffield.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez – whose side moved into fourth place with a win over Sunderland – will join Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers in giving readings at the service.
They will be joined by directors, the victims’ families and supporters.
A new inquest for the Hillsborough disaster victims resumes on April 22.
The original accidental death verdicts of 1991 were quashed at the High Court in 2012 after a long campaign by families.