Manchester City 0 Liverpool 0: match report
Even the return from injury of Craig Bellamy and Fernando Torres could not inspire either Manchester City or Liverpool to win the game neither team could afford to lose. Bellamy featured for half an hour just days after a reported spat with manager Roberto Mancini, while Rafael Benítez allowed Torres, who has not played since the FA Cup defeat to Reading on January 13, a 15-minute run-out. Neither talisman, though, could break the deadlock as two under-performing teams cancelled each other out. While both managers had been at pains to point out that, with three months of the season remaining, this was far from a straight shoot-out for the fourth place, from Peter Walton's first whistle, there was no doubt both sides were well aware of the implications of losing ground to direct rivals. Though Liverpool started the more efficiently, it was a cagey, tense affair, lacking any sort of rhythm and with chances conspicuous by their absence. Steven Gerrard almost picked out Maxi Rodríguez with a curling, dipping cross, before sending a left-foot shot just wide. Adam Johnson, without question the hosts' most effective outlet, cut inside from the right to send a cross-cum-shot whistling past Pepe Reina's post. Indeed, there was little evidence to suggest either side warrant the Champions League status both crave. Liverpool dallied in possession on several occasions on the edge of their own box, dicing with fate. City, at times, appeared disjointed, disorganised, unable to take advantage of their guests' increasing nervousness. The most damning statistic for both Mancini and Benítez, though, is that neither Reina nor his opposite number, Shay Given, were forced into action until the 61st minute, when the Liverpool goalkeeper produced a sprawling save low to his right to keep out an Emmanuel Adebayor volley. Given, indeed, remained chronically underemployed for another quarter of an hour, when Gerrard fired a left-footed shot straight at the Irishman. City, by that stage, were very much on the front foot, Liverpool - six players booked and Javier Mascherano lucky not to be dismissed - doing all they could to staunch the flow, despite the introduction of Torres after six weeks on the sidelines after knee surgery. The Spaniard scarcely had chance to touch the ball as City twice went close, first Martin Skrtel producing a last-ditch tackle to rob Adebayor as he scampered through on Reina, before the Togolese striker headed the resulting corner just over.
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