This drab clash at Eastlands was the so-called best league in the world at its worst. Two shots on target, seven bookings and barely a moment of interest. What dross it was.
Manchester City and Liverpool are contenders for a Champions Leaguespot next season. How ridiculous that is. Liverpool are so mundane it'sdepressing. City, meanwhile, are horrendously drab and unambitious under Roberto Mancini.
Race for fourth: Shaun Wright-Phillips (left) battles with Liverpool's Javier Mascherano
Neither side are fit for the Champions League. Nowhere near. On theevidence of this season, English football doesn't deserve four places.
If the Scottish Premier League is in danger of losing its oneautomatic entry, its English cousin really doesn't have much of a casefor retaining its own quota.
Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal remain, happily, qualityteams. The rest are some way behind and here was the depressingevidence.
Under pressure: Benitez barks out the orders as his opposite number Mancini looks on
The result will not harm either side's chances of finishing fourth. A defeat would have been really damaging for Liverpool.
As such, Mancini and his Anfield counterpart Rafael Benitez will not have been too downhearted last night.
But for the 47,000 poor souls who had paid to watch, it was anafternoon to forget. Both teams tried to win the game. It's just thatneither were set up to take risks to do so.
Under Benitez, Liverpool are a pedestrian side, enlivened onlyoccasionally by Steven Gerrard's thrusts. But even he has been poorthis season.
City are more defensively secure under Mancini than they were underpredecessor Mark Hughes, but they are becoming difficult to watch.
They were booed off again yesterday, as they were after the draw athome to Stoke in the FA Cup a week earlier. Opposition to Mancini isgrowing and it is easy to understand why.
Yesterday he attempted to explain his dilemma, pointing out that heis without attacking players such as Roque Santa Cruz, who has kneetrouble, and Carlos Tevez, who remains in Argentina with his prematurebaby daughter.
Back in the thick of it: Torres gestures to referee Peter Walton
Mancini insisted after the game he wanted Tevez to return fromArgentina this week. The City manager said: 'I want Carlos to come backnow. We need him here. I don't know where he is, but I want him toreturn.'
However, sources close to Tevez insisted the striker will not returnuntil doctors give his baby the all-clear. A friend said last night:'Carlos wants to come back, but his priority must be the health of hisbaby.'
Tevez is, however, unlikely to be back in time for Wednesday's FA Cup fifth-round replay at Stoke.
There is, however, more to City's malaise than that. Mancini's first thought is defence and that is unlikely to change.
'In order to win you must try not to concede,' he said.
Bruiser: Gareth Barry goes down under pressure from Javier Mascherano
'Liverpool are a good team a top- three or four team and it wasimportant not to lose against them. We played as a team and that'simportant. We didn't concede any chances and that's good.
'I have a big problem at the moment as I only have (Emmanuel)Adebayor in attack. That is making things difficult.' With so muchriding on yesterday'sgame for both sides, it perhaps needed a relatively early goal to sparkit into life. Sadly, it never looked like happening.
It wasn't long before the play became bogged down, much of it taking place in areas too far away from goal.
City managedtheir shot on goal in the 61st minute, Adebayor bringing a save out ofPepe Reina with a low drive from the edge of the penalty area. Then, 11minutes later, Gerrard drove a shot into the midriff of Shay Given.
That apart, both teams could have had a penalty late on as DanielAgger seemed to push Adebayor and then Liverpool substitute YossiBenayoun chose to stay on his feet after he was nudged by VincentKompany.
Benitez said: 'Sometimes players choose to stay up and sometimes that can be good. Sometimes, though, it's not good.
'Overall we have to think about the positives. We were strong and it was good to see some players coming back.'
Liverpool fans will have been pleased to see Fernando Torres appear as a second-half substituteafter an absence of more than a month while, for City, Craig Bellamycame on after a week notable for his argument with Mancini overtraining methods.
All in all, though, the final whistle came as a blessed relief.Neither team deserved to win. In truth, a point each was too good forthem.
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