Carling Cup semi final 1st leg
Manchester City 0
Gerrard (13 pen)
A fine, fine performance which evoked memories away legs in the glorious, pre Champions League, European nights of old by edging in front and then stifling or frustrating the life out of the opposition. At the end it was death by a thousand blocks and tackles Hansen and Lawrenson, who were at the game on BBC duty, must have loved it!
Those who think it was negative, we had around half a dozen defenders on the pitch when the full time whistle blew, in the second half should remember this is a game of two legs, Kenny knows it, and like his mates, he’s been there. However let’s not be premature, this won’t amount to a hill of beans if we don’t finish the job off at Anfield?
Kenny made a few changes. Kelly came in at right back, Johnson moved over to the left and Enrique was benched (no, I don’t know either). Further up Gerrard started, Bellamy replaced Kuyt presumably to try and support Carroll in the loan striker role, when he could?
We got off to the perfect start with a succession of chances. Carroll got things moving turning Savic however, Hart’s anticipation was up to the job and he was able to stop the shot. Next Gerrard tested Hart from about twenty yards out by trying to bend a shot around the City defence into the bottom corner but again Hart read it. He was then at it again knocking away a Downing effort, which deflected off Agger. However, from the resulting corner Savic’s saw fit to rake his studs down Agger’s leg. The referee spotted it and Gerrard converted what needed to be a good penalty (Hart guessed the right way) to give us a deserved lead.
Sadly for every positive we have these days there seems to be a negative as seen in Jay Spearing having to go off with what looked like a pulled hamstring. However we had got our noses in front and kept them there for the remainder of the half. City were simply given no time, we closed them down early, got behind the ball when they had it and moved forward sharply and effectively when we did. Carroll nearly made it to with glancing header from Kelly’s cross and, we had to wait to almost added time in the first half before City really tested us via Nasri.
It was inevitable that City, no doubt with a half time rollicking ringing in their ears, would fair better in the second half. Things weren’t helped by Kelly’s awful back pass that allowed Aguero in for a one on one with Reina. However, perhaps when it might have gone in last week, Reina stood tall, didn’t commit himself and Aguero fired over.
Reina had to save well again this time from Richards’ header from Nasri’s corner. This seemed to prompt a new phase in the game which was a combination of chess and defence verses attack. Kenny shuffled his back four around, seemingly in response to every substitution Mancini made or just for the hell of it. Glen Johnson was passed around the pitch like a joint at a student party! Enrique came on, so did Carragher but no defenders went off. We sat back and, depending on which way you look at it, invited City onto us or said “what we have we hold, try and play your way through this”.
City, who could have done with a Silva service in this situation, couldn’t manage it and were limited to high or wide, long range, speculative efforts from Nasri, Kolarov, Dzeko and Milner. We tackled and blocked tenaciously and too enthusiastically in the case of Glen Johnson. Mancini must have felt a tad irked to see his two footed tackle on Adam Johnson, which looked to be far worse than Kompany’s on Sunday, go unpunished. In short, it was our night and let’s hope it is again in two weeks time.
Manchester City: Hart, Richards, Lescott, Savic, Clichy, Milner, Johnson (Dzeko 66), Barry, De Jong (Kolarov 72), Aguero, Balotelli (Nasri 39), Substitutes: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Onuoha, Nasri, Hargreaves, Dzeko
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Agger, Kelly, Skrtel, Gerrard, Henderson, Downing, (Jose Enrique 59), Spearing (Adam 23), Carroll, Bellamy (Carragher 79) Substitutes: Doni, Jose Enrique, Coates, Carragher, Adam, Shelvey, Kuyt