The Ped Report City 3-0 Liverpool
Normal business was resumed at Fortress Etihad last night as Manchester City didn`t so much take on Liverpool, but took them apart.
With the media world majoring upon whether the stutter would turn into disaster, they were emphatically reminded what exactly is going down in East Manchester, as Mancini loaded his big guns for a tough encounter against one of the teams still on the fringes of a top flight finish.
Dalglish insisted that his team did not fear City, but his players must have wondered what hit them in the rain, hail and snow hauled in by storm force winds. They would have been forgiven for thinking that the storm force wore sky blue and white.
With Lescott sent to the bench there was another opportunity for Kolo Toure to stamp his mark, but as I have often said on the Ped Report, I have concerns about the chances he takes at the back and despite a bright opening from City the first major opportunity of the match fell to Downing who got into space behind Kolo but was thwarted by a magnificent piece of goalkeeping by Joe Hart. From then on it was all City.
After 10 minutes the devilish Aguero carved out enough space in the inside left slot to unleash a venomous low drive which looked routine enough for a keeper of Reina`s standing. However Pepe inexplicably allowed the ball to squeeze below him and into the net bringing whoops of joy at each on-screen replay. This was a typical goal from a masterclass striker, albeit it with friendly assistance.
Step up the City midfield. Silva was back to his pass and move best and Yaya showed for more or less every ball as the well-oiled engine room was revving up. The Blues pressed from all directions and a poor looking Liverpool team just couldn`t cope with the onslaught.
Devoid of Suarez up front, Liverpool looked toothless as Carroll desperately tried to make the most of the League One style high crosses, but even without Lescott, Kompany essentially had him in his pocket and his night turned out to be long and fruitless. In fact much similar to Dzeko`s afternoon in Sunderland.
Time and again City were happy to allow Liverpool into dangerous areas 30 yards from goal which seemed to have them looking for their passports to get across.
At the other end Agger and Skrtl couldn`t manage a livelier Dzeko nor an effervescent Aguero, whose movement and guile was scaring them to death. Indeed Skrtl had to use non-footballing means of retaining some sort of grip on Dzeko with a series of unseen or unpunished challenges.
But with 33 minutes on the clock a typical curling corner from the Magician himself eluded Glenn Johnson and travelled a long way in the direction of Yaya. Although the ball was slightly behind him he twisted his neck almost Jack Charlton style to direct an unlikely header beyond Reina for 2-0.
City had no problem in seeing out the rest of the first half despite some better than robust challenges a number of which Skrtl skittled the men in blue around the field without any recourse from the referee. Then inexplicably a challenge from Barry on Spearing saw a yellow card pop out of the ref`s pocket to the seething discontent of the City faithful.
In the second half City always looked more likely to add to their tally rather than face the ignominy of a Liverpool come back. On the hour Kenny sent on Gerrard and Bellamy to try to ignite something. Bellers got a great reception from Blues fans, many of whom still share my view that had he played for City last season we would have won the double. But it was a one-man crusade. Using his trade mark cut inside from the left, space did open up for him but he found all of his colleague not making the runs, or blocked off especially by Vincent Kompany who was better than extraordinary today.
Carroll continued to make the wrong decisions and despite one or two chances opening up for Maxi Rodriguez, it wasn`t going to happen for Liverpool.
With 16 minutes left another innocuous challenge by Barry unbelievably had the referee once again going into his pocket, turning the yellows up to red, leaving City short-handed once again against Liverpool and the immediate effect couldn`t have been more devastating for our brethren from along the M62.
Yaya Toure sprang into their half unleashed like a Siberian tiger, leaving red shirts in his wake. Skrtl risked his version of a professional foul, leaving the ref no option other than to point to the spot, but somehow failing to reach for his top pocket.
Mancini went mental on the sidelines waving an imaginary card at just about any official that would take notice, but in the absence of the most serious of admonishments, Skrtl got away with it. With Aguero by now replaced, up stepped a very confident James Milner to slam the ball high to Reina`s left as poor old Pepe grasped fresh air to his right. 3-0 City.
Even with only 10 men for the last 15 minutes city looked as though they could carve something out when ever it suited them and despite Liverpool time and again during this period getting into promising positions, there was not enough mobility about their forward play and no matter how much they were prompted by Gerrard and Bellamy there was to be no way past Kompany and Hart tonight. Vinnie was total quality, Hart simply the best net minder in the Premier League.
So Mancini played what would perhaps have been his starting eleven at the beginning of the season and this side knows what it is doing. Unlike in the last two matches there was fluency, creativity and goals in City tonight.
I thought Gael Clichy was outstanding and Yaya was at his constructive and destructive best leaving no doubt that he will be sorely missed when he leaves for the African Cup of Nations. There is probably no player in the Premier League who drives a match like him when he`s on fire.
Despite the early scare Kolo and Kompany were tight at the back and returning Richards was a handful trying to seek the answers to the question as to how on earth Glenn Johnson gets an England berth ahead of him.
The midfield was simply a box of tricks with skill and movement that was mesmerising and which left Liverpool wondering what would happen next. Every single one of the four in there was outstanding tonight.
Up top Aguero was unmanageable by Liverpool`s fairly static back line and Dzeko, still unlucky, was a handful for Skrtl who was pretty thuggish in his approach and who inexplicably was still around to shake hands after 94 minutes.
Dalglish is no doubt trying to build a team in the image of the Liverpool teams in which he played - skill with a die-for-the-shirt attitude, but for me Skrtl took this too far as did Adam and both could have been putting on the Nivea for men ahead of schedule.
It is annoying that City is not standing eight points clear at the top leaving United under duress at Newcastle, but at least they have dug themselves out of the holes in which they were starting to find themselves.
And as for the media, myself included, well we can take comfort from the fact that at the Etihad, this team plays some of the best football on the planet as we sit back and for the next set of visitors to City`s resplendent stadium.