Liverpool 2 Manchester City 2: Is that all you get for 400m?
Millions of pounds have been invested by Manchester City and Liverpool in a bid to improve their positions in the elite of English football. Yet, nothing which transpired at Anfield suggested it has been money well spent. For long periods this much-anticipated clash of Champions League aspirants resembled the kind of uninspired encounter that frequents the lower reaches of the Premier League. Parity restored: Benayoun makes it 2-2 There was little inspiration on display and few moments ofexcellence, just full-blooded commitment, hopeful rather than incisivepasses and frequent errors. City or Liverpool for fourth place? On this evidence Aston Villa andTottenham have as much chance, the draw meaning that a desperate run ofresults continues for Liverpool, with just one victory in 10 games,while City, unable to defend the leads their forwards secure, have nowrecorded their own unsatisfactory sequence of six successive leaguedraws. 'It's not a worry that we're not defending leads,' said Mark Hughes,who has spent £184m since taking over, to Rafa Benitez's £229m. 'It's afrustration. There are critical things we haven't done in key momentsand we have to eradicate those mistakes, because they have cost usdearly. 'We could have seen the game out after we'd got our noses in frontbut we will take some encouragement from the performance and theresult. It's only amatter of time before we start winning.' That, of course, is true but there was little evidence that whenthey do, it will be the kind of sustainable run which will meritChampions League football. Level-pegging: Adebayor wheels away after negating Skrtel's opener Benitez, predictably, begged to differ with his counterpart'sassertion that City were the better team. 'We ought to have won it atthe end,' he said, pointing to Liverpool's wasted chances ininjury-time. 'You can't be happy with a draw at home but when you have theinjuries we have, it's not easy to manage. It's important to win but wewere going close until the last minute. We have to think positively andthink that when we start winning we can win several games in a row.' They were a team without at least one of their talismanic players, Fernando Torres,and who had lost right-back Glen Johnson in an early morning fitness test. After five minutes they were counting another casualty, Daniel Aggerfeeling the force of Joleon Lescott's head as the City centre-half roseto challenge. Ryan Babel was the next to fall when, cutting inside his man, he washalted by a robust tackle from Stephen Ireland, collided with hiscaptain, Steven Gerrard, andcollapsed clutching his ankle. City had lesser injury issues. Though he struggled on untilhalf-time, Kolo Toure was not running freely, suffering from a seriesof collisions, and was eventually replaced by Nedum Onuoha. Excuses aside, the lack of invention and dearth of accurate passing was lamentable. Anfield ecstasy: Martin Skrtel is mobbed by teammates after opening his Liverpool account - and the scoring Even when the goals came, they owed as much to calamitous defending as any quality either attack could offer. There was Gerrard's beautifully executed free-kick with which MartinSkrtel stuck a leg out for Liverpool's first on 48 minutes; then again,Emmanuel Adebayor, nominally marking the centre half, seemed largelyunconcerned about his defensive duties. City equalised on 70 minutes, in what is now an all-familiarscenario for Liverpool fans. Adebayor was left in yards of space byLiverpool's notorious zonal marking system and directed his headerbeyond Pepe Reina from a Craig Bellamy corner. Skrtel was the man nearest to him and therefore the most culpable. 'A running header will always beat a standing header,' was Hughes'concise summary of the inability of Liverpool's static player to mastertheir system. City then moved ahead from one of the game's few moves of genuine quality. Defensive crisis: Daniel Agger was forced to leave the field after just 11 minutes after a clash of heads with Kolo Toure Carlos Tevez, whose introduction on the hour injected some energyinto the game, delivered a delightful reverse pass for ShaunWright-Phillips on 76 minutes. He skipped past Sotirios Kyrgiakos with ease and centred for Ireland, who steered the ball past Reina. If City could only hold on to their leads, they might be dangerous.Regrettably, they have spent £70m on a porous defence and managed toprotect their hard-won advantage for a mere 27 seconds after therestart. Onuoha missed a chance to clear, David Ngog delivered a cross whichtook a deflection and ended at the feet at Yossi Benayoun, three yardsout, and the Israeli redeemed a perilous situation. In injury time, Kyrgiakos somehow allowed himself to be outjumped byWright-Phillips when a nod would have directed the ball past ShayGiven; Lucas then directed a free header woefully wide from a Gerrardcorner; and Dirk Kuyt's impressive volley struck the hand of Onuohainside the penalty area. 'I feel City have quality but if we can improve and if we can play at our level we will be in the top four,' said Benitez. Champions League hopes rest on make or break Man City clash, admits RafaLiverpool v Manchester City: The action as it happenedLIVERPOOL FC
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