The Ped Report City 1-1 Liverpool
And the rain came down…it poured as it welcomed our brethren from the wrong end of the East Lancs Road yesterday as a packed Etihad Stadium looked forward to an action packed event between two sides who go to war without the security of anything resembling a defence. Indeed, they probably can`t produce a decent back line between them.
Of course this was to lead to an open attacking match, where the 12 men from Scouseland almost added to City`s woes.
Guardiola returned to something more resembling of a team but having to use Fernandinho at right-back as Zaba hit the sick bed and Sagna wasn`t fully fit. Otamendi came in at centre-back for Kolarov, leaving Clichy on the left.
Ahead of them and Caballero was Yaya, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling and Mane with Aguero up top.
The chances started almost with the kick-off as first Liverpool and then City attacked almost basketball fashion with play moving quickly from one end to the other. Both teams were keen to recover the ball at the earliest opportunity so there were a few lean-looking tackles in midfield notably from contract rebel Tin Can who really should have been removed from play ahead of half time for a series on unpunished fouls and tugs. Quite how the idiotic referee could decree that his deliberate pull-back of De Bruyne was not worthy of a yellow card shows just how much Michael Oliver has deteriorated a referee in recent weeks.
Quite how the same referee was satisfied that Klavan wrestling Aguero to the ground WWE style and then Milner tripping Sterling as he was about to score were not fouls worthy of penalties and in the case of Milner a red card was simply stunning. For some reason these days, it is impossible for Sterling to be fouled and this inexplicable decision was one of a number that the pathetic individual has been responsible for since his tank-up with Timperley Stretford Taylor on the Costa Del Sol.
This is the same clown who told the FA that he had seen that despicable creature Rojo stamp on a Chelsea player and deemed it to be ok when a Bournemouth player got five weeks off for accidentally treading on Ibrahimovic. There is a distinct lack of any kind of consistency when the men in the middle are concerned.
True City survived a dive by Firmino as he deliberately hit the deck following a collision with Caballero and one of Yaya`s feet-up specials on Tin Can might have received further admonishment than a yellow card, but this match was another example of how City have to play 12 men each week. The most ironic thing was a cheer from around the stadium when City got a throw-in in their own half about 8 minutes before half time. Was that the first thing the Blues had been given since kick-off?
Whilst it is easy to make an awful referee the target of one`s scribblings, this match had more or less everything we have come to expect from the encounters between City and Liverpool. Here we do not have the hate and vehemence that adorns their meetings with the Stretfords. We have a double-edged on-field duel with plenty of off-field banter, where, often, songs and counter-songs are made up on the spur of the moment. Especially those surrounding Sterling who had his best game yet against his former club and might have had a hat-trick had he not persistently ventured offside.
As the Koppites proclaimed that there was "Only one greedy b*****d", the Blue Mooners responded with "Raheem Sterling, he left cos you`re s**t". It was a laugh a minute on the grades.
It was a match laden with positive and ruined by negatives. Aguero must have had at least four sights of the net and only took one of them after a classic pass from De Bruyne. Positive. But, once again De Bruyne until he went out wide-right, was once again profligate with his passing as persistently forced City on the defensive back-foot by giving the ball away in midfield. Negative. For his part, Tin Can was just as bad for Liverpool. Aguero could have scored four and I`m sure had any of those chances fallen to the Gabriel Jesus of this world, he would have been going home with the ball.
David Silva was the master of the pass, but he was often closed down and then chopped down by anyone in red who was close by. How many times does the Pedmachine scream about him changing feet unnecessarily when preparing for a shot? So, what does he do today? He hits one first time, with his left foot, with the goalmouth pleading, and it ends up in level 2. Grrr. He must read the Ped Report though!
And on and on it went as City turned scintillating approach play into an almost comical approach to shots on goal. Sterling and Sane were equally guilty and following a pinball situation where Aguero missed a sitter, Sterling missed the follow-up, De Bruyne, again with the net empty chose to hit the post.
Liverpool, too had their moments and Caballero produced at least 4 goal-preventing saves that may well have had Bravo visiting his netting. The most notable was to prevent Mane, the most electric jet-heeled individual on show, in a one-on-one where a split second gives them a penalty and you a red card. Pure genius. Caballero looks to have much more command these days and generates much more confidence.
When Liverpool`s goal came it was almost unbelievable. I think that by now Oliver had turned away at least 4 decent shouts for penalties for City when Firmino found Clichy once again fast asleep and was in on goal. Before the Brazilian could get I under control Clichy tackled him with a high foot, played the ball, clearly and then the ball was just as clearly handled by Firmino himself. Somehow in the eyes of one Michael Oliver, that translated into a penalty. Never mind the quite deliberate acts committed by Liverpool players, Oliver couldn`t help himself. We all know Milner never misses and despite his penalty heroics at Wembley last year against the same opposition, Willy was all over the show as Milner sent him one way and the ball the other.
This sent an air of fury around the Etihad as Milner, who today became the first returning footballer who I`ve heard booed by the City fans, put his new team ahead, probably against the run of play and certainly against the fairness of the application of the laws of Association Football.
But Pep has certainly engaged more spirit in this team and the Blues fought back in style. That said, chance after chance went begging until with De Bruyne now having moved out right, he sent in a dream of a pass which this time was accepted by Aguero and despatched Sergio-style into the back of the net.
Neither side threw it in nor settled for a draw until the final stages when City threw on Fernando and Liverpool, Lucas to close the back doors, although one wag from Liverpool proclaimed to me that we would get a penalty off Lucas if we went near him in the box!
The final flourish however went to the visitors when they could and should have scored an undeserved winner. But boy do we have to chuckle. With Firmino having left Sagan at the bus stop he gift-wrapped a peach of a pass to Lallana, directly in front of goal and with enough pace a goalward touch would have grabbed Liverpool all three points. Lallana looked almost bored as he tried to stroke the ball past Caballero, but must have spotted a pigeon landing on top of the South Stand as he studded it into the ground and the arms of the man from Argentina.
As Firmino did a knee-slide towards his gleeful fans, a huge guffaw came out of Block 116, leaving Lallana looking like Scooby Doo when he`s seen the ghost. There were no Scooby snacks for him. Indeed the headline "Lallana in La La Land" was more probably more appropriate.
For the neutrals, this was a helter-skelter match with excitement at both ends engineered by excellent play where for both sides the key players didn`t really get going. For Liverpool, Coutinho, who perennially plays well against City and other top teams was marshalled by Fernandinho and Firmino simply doesn`t do it for me. At a time when you think Brazil you think Neymar and now to an extent Gabriel Jesus, Firmino doesn`t cut it. We had the same with Elano. He was not Ronaldinho, not (fat) Ronaldo, nor Rivaldo, nor even Kaka. He was good, but not good enough.
I thought the Stones and Otamendi central axis looked a lot sounder and in the continued absence of Kompany, Pep should stick with this pairing. Please oh please get rid of Clichy. And as soon as Zaba even hints at getting out of the treatment room get him back in the team.
Yaya gave a more solid look to the defensive end of midfield often deputising in the back line as Fernandinho tried to get forward, but in the second half the game passed him by a little, so Pep pushed Fernandinho back into midfield and brought on Sagna. Sane and Sterling used their pace without product and De Bruyne looked better when he changed places with Sterling in a bold attempt by Guardiola to provide additional pace at inside forward and to try to break the shackles from Aguero who as usual was surrounded by three men.
We probably went home feeling robbed by the referee, but the truth is that we were robbed by our own players. Guardiola puts the plan in place. He cannot legislate for Aguero, Sane, Sterling, Silva and De Bruyne missing sitter after sitter. That is half the team. This has now happened three matches on the trot and I`m convinced Aguero could have caught Lukaku over the last three matches from a zero start. It is getting disappointing that we simply cannot convert the golden opportunities we create.
I doubt that despite his proclamations of being "happy", Guardiola would have so been at this sacrifice of two points again at home. When we look back at every point we have dropped at the Etihad we can easily say that we should have won the matches and that the reason we didn`t is that we were simply "happy" to blow the chances as if the next one grew on a tree. In the end you run out of match time and this was another example thereof.
Two tricky away matches await us now with both Arsenal and Chelsea within 3 days. I suppose we should hope that the Gooners stick with Wenger as the team is not producing for him. Chelsea will be another challenge but the home match against them was a classic example of City having the chances to be 4-0 up by half time and losing the match in the second half when Chelsea only had 3 shots.
With the Stretfords picking up easy points against easy teams, City need to find the goalscoring touch once again. I hear that Derby Day might be Thursday 27 April. I suppose that is to enable the Stretfords to keep up their Thursday-Sunday routine to help them with the Stretford Thursday League. It certainly won`t help City. I suppose the result worked out ok in the Sue household as she and the Pedmachine are still talking, although I understand she did a lot of ironing away from the TV yesterday!!