The Ped Report Liverpool 2-2 City
Sun-kissed Anfield is not a happy hunting ground for Manchester City and season after season it is a venue where they come unstuck, but as this match got under way, Mancini`s odd looking line-up in their 3-5-2 formation got on the front foot quickly, without really causing too much trouble to Liverpool`s back line.
Under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool are a different proposition. Sure they took a whacking at West Brom last week especially after their team was shortened, but in front of their own fans against the champions who have a dismal record there, they put together some excellent football in the first half today.
For the first fifteen minutes though one would have thought that City were going to take the match by the scruff of the neck and it was against the run of play that following play down the left, Borini got open in the inside right slot but dragged his shot wide.
In the very next movement, Tevez , also in the inside right channel, chased down a lost cause and from an unlikely angle hit the inside of the far post with Balotelli and Nasri static twelve yards out. Anyone following in would have scored.
For the last twenty minutes of the first half, Liverpool dominated play, pressing high up the field and passing crisply and the lively youngster Sterling giving Kolo Toure a real runaround.
City continued to look for a goal using Milner and Kolarov from wide positions and Nasri and Yaya Toure buzzing around centre stage. Balotelli made a series of off the ball runs none of which were seen by his midfielders and with Silva on the bench, it didn`t look likely that anyone would pick him up all day.
With around 25 minutes gone Kompany frightened Hart steering the ball over his own bar when an own goal looked the most likely outcome. City were left reeling however from the resultant corner kick.
Regular readers of the Ped Report will know that I cannot understand how, when City have a corner, would be scorers all seem to queue up in a blue line in roughly the same part of the opposition`s penalty area. I can never understand why nobody starts a run from near the referee, picking out the flight of the ball and meeting it big style on the six yard line.
Well from the corner that is precisely what Skrtl did and Kapow City were trailing.
Joe Allen continued to be neat and tidy for Liverpool reaching half time without a misplaced pass. Working in tandem with Gerrard he kept the ball moving quickly forward leaving Kolarov and Milner on defence rather than offence duty.
Tevez had always looked like City`s major threat, but starved of the ball from midfield nothing positive was delivered to him and when Balotelli did get a sight of goal he went solo when there were three better-placed players unmarked to his right.
City got to half time a goal down. The second half commenced with Liverpool again pressing from midfield forcing errors from City and in particular Nasri who was sacrificed for Rodwell five minutes into the second half. Mancini had clearly seen that City were in danger once again of being starved of the ball.
For some reason he then replaced Balotelli with Dzeko which looked a little harsh especially as he had made the undetected runs in the first half without seeing the ball. However with the changes made Tevez from wide right outmuscled Johnson and sent in a dangerous cross. Liverpool didn`t deal with it with both Reina and Kelly failing to clear. The ball fell kindly for Yaya Toure who tucked in the equaliser on 63 minutes.
Kelly`s reward was an almost immediate substitution and Enrique entered the fray to simply deny City the space down the right.
Rodwell`s first contribution was to give away a free kick unfortunately handling 25 yards out. Up stepped Suarez to drill home an awesome shot which came back along way creeping around the wall and into the bottom corner. A genuinely sensational goal.
Liverpool were now in command. Borini was involved in many of the forward moves and Suarez was clearly aggravating Kompany as they exploited the wide open spaces invited by City playing three at the back. De Jong seemed to be a waste of a player as he was neither protecting the back three nor creating anything going forward.
However it was Milner who was replaced by Silva with fifteen to go with Zabaleta switching to the right of the back three.
With ten minutes left the hitherto brilliant Skrtl played a lazy long back pass towards his own goalkeeper. Tevez was on it in a flash as he patiently and unhurriedly rounded Reina to deliver City`s second equaliser.
It was now about tightening up on the edge of the box and Liverpool once again created a neat move with Sterling and Gerrard setting up Shelvey who`s screamer went inches over the bar.
Rodgers then went with his plan B bringing on Carroll for Borini in a bid to get the third and would-be winning goal. City really needed to go 4-2-3-1 now to limit the crosses, but Johnson got some immediate joy although he was unable to find Carroll.
With four minutes left at last a flowing move from City which Dzeko turned over the bar when a goal looked the more likely outcome.
Liverpool then poured forward once more with Kolo needlessly giving away a corner. City somehow survived only to concede another which did find Carroll but his effort was ineffective.
Silva was making a difference. City`s passing and ball retention improved as both sides went in search of a winner with four added minutes and City looking to emulate their default scoreline of 3-2. But it didn`t come for either side.
This was a great football match with both sided giving their all and looking to win. Fortune favoured City in the end as they were gifted the equaliser and Brendan Rodgers would probably have been disappointed not to take the points home. In view of their shortcomings today, City will have been pleased to get off unbeaten and it is a testimony to City that didn`t wave the white flag when things weren`t going their way. But that is what this team is about now. There is a belief that whatever the adversity they can win. It certainly looked thay way today.
Hart has gone two matches without a clean sheet which suggests that the three at the back system is an open invitation to a thief. He din`t have a prayer for the first goal but very nearly got to the Suarez free-kick, which shows just how accurate it was.
Kolo had quite an accomplished game as did Kompany and Zabaleta was excellent in his own understated way with some telling tackles. In midfield I can hardly think of anything that de Jong did. Kolarov and Milner out wide worked hard without any real success, Nasri had one of his ineffective days as Liverpool`s midfield pressed and hurried him. Yaya had a presence but was not well supported and didn`t have a natural outlet with Silva on the bench and Barry still on the recovery trail.
Tevez new-found enthusiasm made him the most likely threat for City and this was evident in the end. When he latched on to Skrtl`s back pass the goal still needed scoring and the way in which he put it away was masterclass.
Balotelli did a lot of unsung work and his lack of penetration cost him his place early in the second half. There was definitely a sea change when Silva came on as at last Yaya got ticking and City saw more of the ball. Rodwell did well when he came and was unfortunate for the free kick which resulted in Suarez magnificent goal.
If I`m selecting City`s MVP I`m going with Tevez. What will concern Mancini though is that the midfield was dominated by Joe Allen and Gerrard with a good contribution from Shelvey. By comparison, these players cost Liverpool practically nothing.
all times East Manchester
Sa 01 Sep 17h30 QPR, The Etihad, PL
Sa 15 Sep 15h00 Stoke, The Britannia Stadium, PL
Su 23 Sep 16h00 Arsenal, The Etihad, PL
Sa 29 Sep 15h00 Fulham, Craven Cottage, PL
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FIXTURES:
The draw for the 2012/13 Champions League Group Stage will take place in Monaco on Thursday, 30th August. The opening round of games will kick off in the week commencing Monday, 17th September.