Liverpool 2 Manchester City 2: Martin Skrtel goes from hero to zero
27 August 2012 11:08
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One of Roberto Mancini’s favourite current mantras is that champions need to improve if they are to stay ahead of the rest.At the moment, though, the opposite is true of Manchester City. Two games into the defence of their Barclays Premier League title and the Italian’s team look a shadow of their true selves.City more than played their part in a lively game at Anfield on Sunday afternoon. One thing last season’s championship has given them is belief. For the third league game running, City came from 2-1 down to earn something from the match.
Capitalise: Carlos Tevez popped up to score Man City's second equaliser
Keeping his cool: Tevez celebrates after grabbing City's second
MATCH FACTSLiverpool: Reina; Kelly (Enrique 66), Coates, Skrtel, Johnson; Gerrard, Lucas (Shelvey 5), Allen; Borini (Carroll 83), Suarez, Sterling.Subs not used: Jones, Carragher, Henderson, Downing.Goals: Skrtel 34, Suarez 66. Booking: SuarezMan City:
Hart; Kolo Toure, Kompany, Zabaleta; Milner (Silva 76), De Jong, Yaya
Toure, Kolarov; Nasri (Rodwell 59); Tevez, Balotelli (Dzeko 62).Subs not used: Pantilimon, Savic, Lescott, Razak.Goals: Yaya Toure 63, Tevez 80.Referee: Andre Marriner.Attendance: 44,942.Click here for the latest Premier League table, fixtures and results This, however, cannot go on. If City are to successfully defend their title then rollercoaster days like this one and the one they endured at home to Southampton will not get the job done. Mancini will take heart from another comeback. His team remain hard to beat. Nevertheless they were given two goals here by Liverpool’s defence and created precious little of note apart from that.Some may argue that Mancini’s tinkering with his formation isn’t helping and there may be something in that. On Sunday he reverted to a three-man central defensive line that featured a reserve, Kolo Toure, and Pablo Zabaleta, who is a full back.With Liverpool operating with just one central forward, Luis Suarez, this was puzzling, especially given that Joleon Lescott was among the substitutes and is not injured.Frankly, City looked laboured for long periods. Dreadful in the first half, they did get better as the game wore on and perhaps even finished the game the stronger team. A point, though, was the very most they deserved.
Boom: Martin Skrtel opens the scoring for Liverpool
Roar: Skrtel enjoys a wild celebrationOne would imagine they will improve. Players such as David Silva and Mario Balotelli look as though they are still finding their sharpness after post-Euro 2012 lay-offs. The same can be said of England midfielder James Milner.Mancini, though, will hope that improvement arrives soon. Games against Stoke City and Arsenal are on the horizon, as is the Champions League, and City need to find a better stride.On Sunday, they found themselves facing a Liverpool team still settling down under the guidance of a new manager, Brendan Rodgers. After last week’s defeat at West Bromwich Albion, Liverpool’s anxious supporters came hoping for an afternoon of reassurance — and, for a while, looked as though they might get it.One of the most impressive things about Rodgers’ management is its confidence. He chose a 17-year-old, Raheem Sterling, on the left side and left three products of the Kenny Dalglish era — Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson — on the bench.
Back level: Yaya Toure levels from close range
Nice one: Yaya Toure is congratulatedIn the centre of the field, meanwhile, young Joe Allen — bought by Rodgers from his old club Swansea — looked an assured and confident footballer. Allen looked comfortable in his surroundings, passed the ball rhythmically and, though his influence waned late on, was the most impressive player on the pitch.With City so uncertain early on, there was opportunity for Liverpool to impose themselves. For a while they didn’t really take it. Fabio Borini volleyed a chance wide from a Sterling cross, while at the other end Carlos Tevez ran on to a Samir Nasri pass to roll a shot against a post.Midway through the half, however, Liverpool began to gather momentum. A Borini shot was charged down by Kolo Toure, while another from Suarez cannoned away off Vincent Kompany.Then, 10 minutes before half-time, a goal. Steven Gerrard curled a corner in from the right and Martin Skrtel, leaving Aleksandar Kolarov in his wake, thundered in from the edge of the penalty area to send a punishing header high into the net.
Precision: Luis Suarez curls home Liverpool's second
Upset: Samir Nasri (right) and his Man City colleagues react to going a goal behindIt was a goal to bring a game to life and that is precisely what it did. The Kop were exultant at half-time and would have been even more excitable had Suarez found the corner of the goal as he moved on to an Allen lay-off 20 yards out.As it was, Liverpool still had a precious lead and City had a game to chase.Early in the second period the game followed a similar pattern. Liverpool looked confident, while City lacked fluency.Had Borini provided a better pass for Suarez after intercepting a rank Yaya Toure pass in the 50th minute, then the home team might have sealed the game. As it was, Tevez skipped past Sterling to cross from the byline 15 minutes later and when Reina and Skrtel got in each other’s way the ball bounced off Martin Kelly’s knees to allow Yaya Toure to turn it in for the equaliser from six yards.
Opportunity: Raheem Sterling was given his full league debut
Hart to handle: Luis Suarez was a handfulBack in the contest unexpectedly, City now had an opportunity to strangle the game. They did improve but Liverpool resisted and the excitement levels edged up a notch or two when they regained the lead.Substitute Jack Rodwell was perhaps unfortunate to be penalised for handball when blocking a Gerrard shot. Replays showed the ball bounced up off his knee to strike his arm. Nevertheless, the subsequent positioning of the City defensive wall was lamentable and Suarez’s expertly taken free-kick found its way round the side and into the bottom left corner of Joe Hart’s net. This was turning into a dreadful afternoon for defenders. Each of the three goals could have been prevented.
Frustration: Fabio Borini missed a good chance
Firebrand: Tevez takes it past Martin KellyWorse was to come, however, and this time the culprit was scorer Skrtel. Under pressure on the touchline, the Slovak committed the cardinal sin of passing back without looking. The lurking Tevez found himself presented with a gift and eased himself past Reina to roll his 100th goal in English football into an empty net.For Liverpool, it was like a balloon had burst. A win would have done much for them ahead of challenges to come. As for City, they are unbeaten after two. That is probably the most positive way to spin it.
Home boy: Brendan Rodgers took charge of Liverpool in the league at Anfield for the first time
Off: Lucas Leiva was substituted early with an injury while Carroll started on the bench