A tense, nervy 90 minutes against a team who gave as good as they got, but in a hectic Xmas schedule where results count more than anything City held on for three points.
With Aguero out and Sturridge absent for Liverpool it always seemed likely to me that Pellegrini might just play one up front so as not to lose control of midfield, and that’s how it turned out, though the rumour was he would have played Dzeko up front with Negredo if Demichelis hadn’t injured himself in training, though I don’t see the logic to that.
The great news was that the other rumour about Zabaleta being fit proved to be true, sparing us Clichy at right-back. Lescott replaced Demichelis.
I was more anxious about this game than any other and my fears proved to be well-founded. Liverpool were everything I expected, with a skilful front-three that worked the City defence to the limit. Suarez might be a despicable cheat at times, but what a player he is, a world-class performer right now full of running, movement and exquisite ball-control. Coutinho and Sterling both ensured Sturridge wasn’t missed, whilst Jordan Henderson continued improvement means Steven Gerrard isn’t missed much either.
City’s defence thus performed fairly well in my opinion considering the pressure they were put under, but no one covered themselves in glory. Kompany scored a vital goal but was, like those beside him, turned too many times by Suarez, Sterling et al. The team as a whole were dogged, resilient and had just enough quality without ever reaching the heights. Perhaps for once fatigue played a part.
Yet again City have beaten a rival and all the talk is about how hard-done the losers were. Brendan Rogers’ comments about Lee Mason’s place of residence were pathetic and showed a bizarre ignorance of how Greater Manchester allegiances lie. The fact is that that there was no disallowed goal as some claimed as the whistle went before Sterling shot, and Joe Hart stopped trying. Of course Sterling would definitely have scored, just like he did in the second half with an easier chance. Oh, hang on…
On top of that, the score was 0-0 at the time, so if Liverpool had scored, they would not have then scored the goal they actually did score in the game, as history would have changed and everything that happened thereafter would have been different.
Finally, it seems the distance he was onside has increased the wrath of some Liverpool fans and increased the sense of injustice at losing the game. If he had only been just onside we’d probably have less of an uproar, which is strange. It was bad officiating, but there are wrong offside calls in most games – this was no different.
As for the tugging of Suarez’s shirt, it is a non-issue, because as many have already commented, Skrtel does that at every corner, including during previous games. He was all over Kompany for the captain’s goal. Still, it was stupid of Lescott to be doing that when protecting a slim lead late in the game. Funny how the tug on Suarez forced him seven feet into the air, and take on the appearance of a wounded soldier, but nothing should surprise us with him.
Stats are often meaningless, but for all of the opposition’s whining, City had more possession and more shots on and off target. If you were watching Match of the Day (ah that old chestnut again), you’d think the second half was a wave of Liverpool pressure, which it certainly was not, as the editors once more misrepresented what happened on the pitch, even using the banner “red rampage” to show highlights during the analysis section. City may not have carved out gilt-edged chances in the second half but were on top for some periods before Liverpool came back strongly, and a highlights package should replicate the general patterns of play, not just show chances.
Negredo’s goal was a strange one and took attention away from the superb link-up play that preceded it. To be honest he got it all wrong trying to curl it in the far corner with the outside of his foot and it curled the other way instead which is what probably did for the keeper.
Hart was excellent, saving City on more than one occasion. Maybe Pellegrini, renowned for his man-management, got this spot-on after all and we can but hope Hart can now maintain his form so that we don’t have to discuss him on a weekly basis in the future. He has had the kick up the arse he needed and has responded excellently and with dignity and professionalism.
I still worry about the amount of space that opposition teams of quality sometimes get in midfield though. Before we all get cocky about facing Barcelona, let’s remember how well they press and boy can they pass the ball.
But forget the performance, because Christmas is a strange time and a hectic one – the fact is that City won and the result is everything. December has been a superb month – City were the form team even before the last two victories and have put together an excellent run since the horror show against Sunderland, beating Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Liverpool in one month. They have scored as many goals in the first 18 league games as anyone in Premiership history (equalling our own record of two seasons ago), and have hauled themselves to the brink of the table summit as we approach the new year. The need now is to get two more victories this week with rotated sides and head into cup season near or at the top of the table.
There will be no need to go mad in the January transfer window, but eventually certain areas need ot be addressed, especially in defence. The priorities by the end of next August must surely be a left-back and a central defender. Maybe even another right-back will be required if Micah Richards cannot stay fit. With City still linked with various goalkeepers in the gossip columns it could be an area seeing considerable upheaval in the coming year.
Just think – Liverpool’s excellence could be the deciding factor in whether United finish the season in the top four. Now that wouldn’t go down well across the city.
Another 100% tackle success rate for Javi Garcia. Though to be fair he only touched the ball once.
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