Yossi Benayoun rescues a point for Liverpool
Liverpool 2 – 2 Manchester City
It was billed as the clash for fourth place, an acid test to ascertain which of the two teams is best equipped to claim the final Champions League spot.
Goals were inevitable considering the recent form of both defences. Liverpool needed a victory if they were to harbour any ambitions of challenging for the title after one win in nine games. Meanwhile City were looking to end a run of five consecutive draws.
The best chance of the first half fell to Martin Skrtel. A trademark Gerrard free kick caused confusion within the City defence. The ball finally came to Skrtel whose header forced Given to produce an impulsive save.
The visitors found time and space in Reina’s box on one occasion in the first half but failed to capitalize on lapse Liverpool marking. Barry had slipped unnoticed into the penalty area but his header was tame and palmed clear by Reina.
Benitez received further injury blows to his already depleted squad when Daniel Agger was substituted after sustaining a blow to the head, while Ryan Babel trudged off less than ten minutes later after picking up a knock to his foot.
Manchester City offered little threat up front and seemed content to allow the home side spray the ball from left to right, sweeping across the pitch, with Barry and De Jong snuffing out any real threats from Benayoun, Gerrard or Kuyt.
Indeed it took a goal from Martin Skrtel to finally prise Manchester City out of their shell. A Gerrard free kick was tapped past the helpless Given by the Slovakian defender.
Stephen Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips came to the fore with the right winger terrorising Insua on the right wing with his electric pace. Ireland controlled the tempo of the midfield.
The manner of their equaliser will disappoint Benitez.
Adebayor was left unmarked and rose for the simplest of headers past Pepe Reina. Once again the issue of zonal marking will be discussed as Liverpool have conceded the most goals from set pieces in the league this season.
It was rich reward for the visitors as Liverpool had failed to build on their lead and had resorted to allowing City to play pretty possession football.
On 75 minutes, a smart turn by Wright-Phillips, followed by a low crossed ball, was met by Ireland who emphatically fired City into the lead.
Two weeks ago, City had shown tremendous character to come from 2-0 down against Burnley, but their hard work was undone by sloppy defending as they allowed Burnley to equalise late on.
Mark Hughes would have hoped his players had learnt a valuable lesson from that experience.
But alas, their lead at Anfield lasted less than two minutes. A stray Liverpool cross escaped the attentions of the Toure and company and Benayoun slid in to restore parity.
Benitez introduced Fabio Aurelio late on but the Brazilian failed to conjure up a winner and the game ended in 2-2 which will suit neither side. But ultimately Hughes will be the happier manager with the point.
We learnt nothing new about these two teams. Both are susceptible in defence, both can score goals and both are inconsistent. It will be an intriguing race for fourth place.
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Insua, Kuyt, Mascherano, Lucas, Babel, Gerrard, N’Gog.
Manchester City: Given, Zabaleta, Toure, Lescott, Bridge, Wright-Phillips, De Jong, Barry, Bellamy, Ireland, Adebayor.
Man of the Match: Steven Gerrard