Manchester City 2
Ireland 19, Garrido 41.
Torres 55, 73, Kuyt 90
In The Sunday Times yesterday we learnt that the good and the great of the world’s footballers have joined together to produce a healthy recipe book designed to combat child obesity. Steven Gerrard’s contribution was something called “aromatic sea bream”.
For Liverpool yesterday’s performance initially threatened to be aromatic – a stinker! However, despite the indifferent starter, slowly it turned into a highly agreeable and satisfying dish! Rich, sumptuous and exciting on the footballing taste buds. However, let’s not see this as regular fare, it’s special, special treat but too much could induce cardiac arrest!
So once more we’ve pulled the irons out of the fire. We just keep doing it. The words “give” and “up” seem to have been banned from Anfield this season? Marseille manager Eric Grets compared us to Duracell Bunnies. On this evidence Weebles (remember them if not, Google it?) would be more appropriate – we wobble but we don’t fall down!
One can blame the red card or the fact that City, after going 2-0 up, didn’t really make much effort to close us out. However, once more force of will and sheer bloody mindedness saw us haul ourselves back into the game. On top of that we also, played some nice football. If the team displays these attributes throughout the season can anyone really have grounds for complaint, regardless of where we end up?
Rafa dealt with having both Alonso and Mascherano fit by dropping Keane and playing Torres on his own up front. Dossena was dropped to the bench in favour of Arbeloa. From the start it was end to end stuff. Albert Riera, with a point to prove to his former employers, was prominent showing positive signs of settling in and giving us the width we craved at the beginning of the season. No more was this seen in two good crosses to Kuyt, who should have done better with them.
City made us pay for these misses. Wright Phillips cut into our area and had two goes at crossing the ball. The first, to Jo, was snuffed out his second found Robinho and again was effectively dealt with but the ball dropped free for no more than a second. That was all Stephen Ireland needed to lash it into the roof of the net. Unlucky? Or perhaps we should have been more decisive with our defending?
City were galvanised by the goal making it increasingly difficult to find the space we had enjoyed earlier. Wright Phillips continued the test us and fell foul of Aurelio and Riera on the edge of the box. Garrido’s free kick negotiated a less than solid looking wall and found Reina’s top left hand corner.
Two down and signs that hopes were to be dashed? The same old story? The optimism of the good start to the season dashed by another sorry spell out of underachievement? At least we would have whole half to turn things around? Time to come back from the dead again and prove that we could be the real deal! An early goal was essential and cometh the hour cometh the man. Gerrard prodded a ball through to an unmarked and untracked Arbeloa. The cross was converted by a sliding in Torres. Game on.
Just as we glimpsed daylight City almost slammed the door shut with Robinho missing a howler after good work by Wright Phillips. After that our play had more composure and fluidity as slowly we began to seize control. City helped out even more by having Zabelta sent off for a clumsy, crude, two footed challenge on Alonso. A sure fire red card that could have easily caused Xabi more harm than it did. Sadly we were not so lucky when Martin Skrtel was carried off with what looked like a serious injury
Rafa, perhaps mindful that City would be stretched in the final twenty minutes, introduced Keane and Dossena. The Italian immediately won us a corner. Gerrard sent it over and Torres, evading Kompany with a well timed run, dragged us back into it with a glancing header.
The perfect ending would be for Torres to edge us in front and complete his hat trick however, he didn’t read the script and skewed horribly wide from Keane’s cross. but, we did not have to wait long. A good run from Benayoun found Torres whose shot ricocheted off Keane into the path of Kuyt who ended his 27 Premiership match goal drought.
Deliverance and another performance that will, annoyingly, increase talk about the “t” word. However, as City found out yesterday nothing should ever be taken for granted. Let’s just enjoy the excitement and the moment and look no further forward than Wigan in two weeks time? On this evidence we’ll need that long to recover!
Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Dunne, Richards, Garrido, Wright-Phillips, Ireland, Kompany, Elano (Petrov 85), Robinho (Evans 80), Jo (Fernandes 70).
Subs Not Used: Schmeichel, Hamann, Ben-Haim, Sturridge.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio (Dossena 70), Mascherano (Keane 71), Kuyt, Gerrard, Alonso, Riera (Benayoun 81), Torres.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Agger, Babel, Leiva Lucas.