A pulsating encounter at Anfield this afternoon featuring two sides going for full points, Manchester City could have opened a seven point lead over their arch rivals Manchester United with a win and Liverpool hoped to capitalize on draws by several of the other title-chasers on Saturday and improve on their mediocre home form.
Brilliant goalkeeping on both sides prevented this match from finishing 6-6. Liverpool edged it on the statistics but Manchester City did more than enough to earn a point and remain unbeaten in Premier League competition this season.
Like all true Englishmen, let’s dispense with the notion of foreplay and just get on with it!
Jose Reina, GK: Immense. Reina was blameless for City’s well taken goal from a corner kick in the 31st minute and was alert enough to snuff out several gilt-edged goalscoring opportunities for Manchester City, bailing out his backline for shocking, sloppy backpasses by flying out of his penalty area and successfully clearing from danger. As usual, Reina’s distribution was excellent and was fully integrated into Liverpool’s attempt to build from the back in lieu of whacking long balls at no one in particular. 9/10.
Glen Johnson, RB: Relatively solid in defense, Glen Johnson was atypically unadventurous going forward, perhaps wary of what David Silva can do in open space. He was effective in his few forays upfield, becoming involved in the play, dragging City out of their shape, and winning corner kicks in the second half. 7/10.
Mrtn Skrtl, CB: Marshalled Sergio Aguero effectively for the 90 minutes, restricting him to a few half-chances from poor angles. Increased the tempo by driving forward with the ball like Alan Hansen used to do, nearly scored in the second half with a reflex shot 5 yards from goal but Hart was well-placed. Head-butted legendary nutter Mario Balotelli’s elbow, getting him sent off. 8/10.
Daniel Agger, CB: I have long thought that Agger is too good for Liverpool and should be off to AC Milan or Barcelona. Seems keen on staying a red, which is probably better than Liverpool deserve. His defensive partnership with Slovakian man-beast Mrtn Skrtl is as formidable as any in Europe and is reflected in Liverpool’s league leading defensive record. Some moments of uncharacteristic sloppiness on the ball; he and several other Liverpool players seemed to want more time than City were willing to afford them. 7/10.
Jose Enrique, LB: Enrique contributed more than his fair share to the excitement in this match, flying forward at every opportunity and leaving Samir Nasri acres of space on the counterattack, although the danger was extinguished by the silky smooth Danish defending of Agger. His right foot is only for standing on, and he did not link up very well with Stewart Downing; not sure who’s to blame for that. 6/10
Jordan Henderson, RCM: I do not understand the point of Jordan Henderson. Although his cameo appearance against Chelsea last week was excellent, Henderson was anonymous today. Seemingly content to pass the ball backwards and fire crosses in the general vicinity of nobody, Henderson continues to struggle to grow into his potential. Liverpool had two technically superior players in that position in Raul Meireles and Alberto Aquilani; inexplicably they sold Meireles on the cheap to Chelsea and loaned Aquilani to AC Milan. It doesn’t surprise your correspondent in the slightest that Meireles went straight into the Chelsea team because he’s excellent, and of course Aquilani is having another good season back in Italy. Henderson may have been a last-minute addition to the team, as Craig Bellamy was too distraught to play following the sad news of his Welsh compatriot and national team manager Gary Speed’s suicide. 5/10.
Lucas Leiva, CM: Uncharacteristically sloppy on the ball, another player who wanted three touches on the ball when City were prepared only to offer two. Lucas made up for this by being resolute in the tackle, including a memorable sliding effort to dispossess the ominous Yaya Toure just as he was building a head of steam. 7/10.
Charlie Adam, LCM: A decent day’s work from the Scot, who was calm and patient on the ball. A little too calm and patient actually, Adam took too many touches too many times. He can usually get away with this because of his physical strength, but Yaya Toure was more than a match for him in that department. His set pieces were poor, again. 6/10.
Dirk Kuyt, RM: As he always does, the Diggler put in an honest shift out on the wing. Kuyt very nearly scored the winner twice in the second half, aiming a snap header just wide and nearly benefiting from goal line comedy defending from Joleon Lescott, whose pretend footballer act is so good he even gets a game for England. Was knackered towards the end and replaced by Liverpool’s own pretend footballer, Andy Carroll. 7/10.
Stewart Downing, LM: Stewart Downing is a donkey. 5/10, and that is generous.
Luis Suarez, F: Did not have much support for most of the match but still terrified the City defense. Vincent Kompany should have been sent off for several cynical fouls on Suarez. Fired a volley over the bar in the first half with the time and placement to do much better; combined well with Dirk Kuyt for a blistering shot to Joe Hart’s near post in the second half which produced a fine save. 7/10.
Andy Carroll, F: Substitute appearance in the 84th minute for Dutch adult film protagonist Dirk Kuyt. Fell over, got booked for a stupid tackle, chased after long balls, and won a few headers including one that required a good save from Joe Hart. So, nothing new here. Carroll is clearly top-heavy at the moment which is a fatal condition for any footballer let alone one of his size. It’s just too easy for players with lower centers of gravity to push him around. Is it too much to ask Andy Carroll to stop drinking alcohol, shave, cut his oily Geordie Shore hair, and be a professional footballer? £35 million! 5/10.
Manchester City (4-5-1):
Joe Hart, GK: England’s Number One, for a reason. Hart singlehandedly kept City in the match with several fine saves and his distribution was exemplary, jumpstarting a number of dangerous counterattacks. 9/10.
Micah Richards, RB: I don’t understand why Richards doesn’t get a look-in at the England squad because he’s brilliant and, unlike current England right back Glen Johnson, actually defends. Kept Stewart Downing in his pocket for most of the afternoon, struggling only on the rare occasion that Downing and Jose Enrique were on the same page. 8/10.
Vincent Kompany, CB: Should have been sent off in the first half for several poor, dangerous, and mistimed tackles on Luis Suarez; however, most of his defending was solid and his goalscoring header in the 31st minute from David Silva’s corner was inch-perfect. 8/10.
Joleon Lescott, CB: Gave a virtuoso impression of a world-class defender against Spain for England earlier this month but reverted to form today. Looked generally competent next to Vincent Kompany, but so would you or I. Was unlucky to deflect Charlie Adam’s speculative 33rd minute effort into his own net and very nearly scored another own goal in the second half after bollocking a hasty goal-line clearance directly into the presumably chiseled chest of the sensual thespian Dirk Kuyt. 6/10.
Gael Clichy, LB: Looked dangerous going forward, consequently left Dirk Kuyt far too much time on several counterattacks. This may have been a calculated gamble by Roberto Mancini given Glen Johnson’s defensive frailty and the fact that if Dirk Kuyt was any slower, he would actually go backwards. 7/10.
Samir Nasri, RM: Totally anonymous, withdrawn with almost half an hour still to play. 5/10.
James Milner, RCM: James Milner was shown up as ordinary by the renowned American midfielder Steve Cherundolo at the 2010 World Cup and I still don’t understand why he gets a game and Adam Johnson does not. This again may have been Mancini assuming (correctly) that he would need some defensive industry to deal with Jose Enrique’s marauding runs from the Liverpool left. Did a decent enough job, but it’s clear that Milner is a better pure athlete than a footballer. Maybe he could do us all a favor and run middle distances for Team GB at the London Olympics; that’s all he does on the pitch anyway. 6/10.
Gareth Barry, LCM: Gareth Barry is an antiquated footballer. One-paced, one-legged, decent enough at holding up the play and keeping possession but was exposed as anachronistic at the World Cup when Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, and Thomas Muller ran past him as if he wasn’t there. Was largely anonymous today, which is how he and Fabio Capello seem to like it. 6/10.
Yaya Toure, CM: There are a few footballers that give me nightmares, and Yaya Toure is one of them. Technically sound with unlimited power and endurance, Toure is the engine of Manchester City and the prototypical 21st century footballer. Built like a small forward in basketball or a wide receiver in American Helmet Rugby, it will be players like Toure, Didier Drogba, Mario Balotelli, and Fernando Torres that will fill all 22 positions in every match of the 2050 World Cup, assuming that we haven’t all been atomized by nuclear holy war in the meantime. Lucas and Charlie Adam just about managed to contain him today but it wasn’t pretty. 7/10
David Silva, LM: Dangerous on the counter but contributed little when Liverpool had numbers in defense. Silva should have scored late on when City had 10 men and caught Liverpool on a rapid counterattack; however Jose Reina did just enough to put him off and by the time he managed a shot, three Liverpool outfield players were waiting patiently on the goal-line to clear. 6/10.
Sergio Aguero, F: Terrifying on the ball but lacked a cutting edge today. May have been put off by the scary ogre that is Mrtn Skrtl. 6/10.
Mario Balotelli, F:
A 65th minute substitute for the ineffectual Samir Nasri, Balotelli is my favorite footballer at the moment. Effortless technique, pace, and power coupled with a knack for controversy, I will adore this man as long as he never plays on a team I care about. Red-carded after 18 minutes for planting his elbow into the jaw of Mrtn Skrtl. I hope his elbow recovers by the time he has served his three-match suspension. Negative Infinity/10
Edin Dzeko, F: An 82nd minute substitute for Sergio Aguero. Largely starved after the Italian comedian Mario Balotelli’s ejection, was involved in the one dangerous short-handed counterattack that nearly won the game for City. 6/10.
Kolo Toure, CB: a 90th minute substitute for David Silva. N/A