Barclay’s English Premiership
Sunday 5 October, 2008, 15:00 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Richards, Dunne (c), Garrido, Kompany, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Elano (Petrov 85), Robinho (Evans 80), Jo (Gelson 70)
Unused: Schmeichel, Sturridge, Ben-Haim, Hamann
Goals: Ireland (19), Garrido (42)
Sent Off: Zabaleta
City Man of the Match: Vincent Kompany
Steve Bennett will be thankful of referee Peter Walton, who managed to take the heat of the City fans after another of Keith Hackett’s men managed to come to Eastlands and show a display that seemed less than partial.
The game began with ex-City man Albert Riera causing some trouble to the home side’s defence, with him chipping in a cross just behind Kuyt and then firing off a volley which was spilled by Joe Hart for a corner.
Kuyt blazed over when it seemed easier to score on 16 minutes, before Robinho, down the other end, somehow managed to keep the ball in play after beating three Liverpool men, but his low drive was gobbled up by Reina.
Then, on 19 minutes, the ball broke kindly for Shaun Wright-Phillips, who broke into the area at pace. He squared for Jo, who was able to hold up the ball and find Robinho who, despite falling, was able to block the defender’s clearance into the path of Stephen Ireland, who volleyed home from ten yards.
Liverpool tried to hit back immediately, but a series of corners went without threat to Joe Hart’s goal, as the away side couldn’t find their finishes.
Then, there was controversy, as referee Peter Walton chose not to punish Jamie Carragher for a no-holds-barred challenge on Robinho, which left the Brazilian in some discomfort.
City then began to get a foothold on the ball and were knocking it around nicely, when Shaun Wright-Phillips was barged cynically as he knocked it into the area, resulting in a free kick on the right side of the box.
Up stepped left-back Javier Garrido and he curled the ball over the wall and into the top right corner, past the flapping Reina, to double City’s lead. It was the left-back’s first goal for City and he took it well.
City were in control of the game at half time and were looking to get a good start to the second half to keep up the pressure on the top four outfit. But it didn’t come, as the home side never really got going after the restart.
10 minutes into the second half, England international Gerrard nutmegged Javier Garrido and found Arbeloa, who crossed for Torres to poke the ball home.
City looked to restore their two goal advantage on 64 minutes, when Ireland sent Robinho clear, but the Brazilian was marginally offside. The record transfer, though, should have made it 3-1, when he somehow managed to clear the bar with an effort when it seemed easier to score.
Peter Walton then, to the disgust of the home fans, decided that a tackle by Pablo Zabaleta was worthy of a red card when it looked no worse than the same, unpunished, tackle on Robinho by Carragher. Peter Walton’s case wasn’t helped when, seconds after the red card was produced, felled-man Alonso was back on his feet and ready to continue the game.
The ten man of City couldn’t hold on and, on 73 minutes, Spanish international Fernando Torres equalised as he nodded in a corner that Joe Hart had come for and got nowhere near.
The referee found himself the centre of attention once again, as he punished Robinho for handball when running through on goal, when it appeared the reason the ball had hit him on the arm was the pull back and cynical foul on him by Skrtel.
Skrtel was then forced off with injury after denying substitute Ched Evans a chance on the edge of the box, and the Liverpool man was stretchered off as six minutes of injury time began.
Torres managed to almost hit the corner flag from an open net and just two yards out, before Kuyt was force to poke wide by a Joe Hart challenge. But City couldn’t hold on, as in the first minute of time added on, Torres saw his effort deflect kindly of Robbie Keane and fall to the onrushing Dirk Kuyt, who hit the ball into the roof of the net.
City couldn’t force another chance to try and grab what would have been a deserved point, and referee Peter Walton left the field to the boos of the home fans for his series of controversial decision.