Barclay’s English Premiership
Sunday 22 February 2009, 15:00 KO
City: Given, Richards, Dunne (c), Onuoha, Bridge, Kompany, Zabaleta, de Jong, Ireland, Robinho (Caicedo 90), Bellamy
Unused: Hart, Garrido, Evans, Elano, Weiss
Goals: Bellamy (50)
Booked: Dunne, Kompany
City Man of the Match: Stephen Ireland
There was one change from the side that played in Denmark, with Nigel de Jong replacing the suspended Shaun Wright-Phillips. Liverpool were desperate for a win to get their season up and running again, while City were desperate for a first away win since August.
And in the opening stages, it looked like City wouldn’t be getting their wish. Reira wasn’t able to force a header on target, under pressure from Richards, after a cross from Dirk Kuyt, while Fernando Torries mis-hit a volley, slicing it close to the corner flag than the goal, as Liverpool pressed from the off.
Dossena was lucky not to be shown a yellow card after he showed his studs to Micah Richards after just five minutes, leaving the City right back needing treatment.
The Liverpool full back pulled a low cross through the area, but it missed everybody, with the City fans looking on with their hearts in their mouths. Kuyt them dragged a shot wide of Given’s goal, before Torres won a free kick from Richard Dunne, who didn’t appear to have done much wrong. Fortunately for City, Benayoun could only hit the wall.
Bridge was then unable to cut out a Kuyt cross, but he deflected it across the six-yard box. Once again, though, it missed everybody, despite Richards’s desperate attempt to clear.
A goalmouth scramble followed a Liverpool corner at the half’s midway point, as Kuyt and Torres both tried to force the ball over the line, but a combination of Dunne, Richards and Onuoha forced the ball away, with Bridge completing the clearance.
City had played with their backs against the wall, but then should have taken the lead, when Stephen Ireland superbly found Robinho with a long, diagonal ball. The Brazilian brought the ball inside, riding one challenge, before finding the Irishman running clean through on goal. But Ireland could only hit Reina with his shot, before slotting the rebound into the side netting.
Dossena then had a go from distance, but it was a comfortable save for Given, who wasn’t sure if the shot would sneak inside his near post.
Then the former City winger, Albert Reira, flashed a shot across City’s goal, with many of the fans behind it thinking it would be typical City to concede to another ex-player.
City, confident from their superb performance at the back, began to push forward as the half grew older and Richards was unlucky to slip on 39 minutes as he tried to force his way into the Liverpool box. Skrtle put in an excellent challenge, but could have been in trouble if Richards had kept his footing.
Benayoun then wasted another chance for the home side, spooning a shot well over the bar from eight-yards, with Torres waiting in the middle. And that was the last chance of the half, with Liverpool wondering how they’d not scored and City very pleased with their defensive performance.
The second half began and the visitors put themselves into a shock lead. City started the stronger, having good possession in midfield. Robinho was released down the left and he slotted a nice ball into the feet of Vincent Kompany, who held off challenges with three defenders to knock it back to Bellamy, whose deflected shot found the net.
A goal in front, City began to dominate possession and the Liverpool fans were becoming increasingly frustrated as their side kept presenting the ball back to the away side, with their title ambitions slipping away.
Minutes after City had scored, the ball fell to Nigel de Jong and he had a pop on goal from about 45-yards. It looked to be well wide and miles over, but a sudden curl and dip had Reina worried, and earned an ‘ooh’ from the City fans behind the goal.
Just before the hour, Kuyt headed over from a corner and City broke. Robinho found Ireland in space in the middle and he spun excellently, but his curling effort from 25 yards ended up well over, the Irishman perhaps thinking he had less time than he did.
Dunne put in an excellent challenge on Torres to concede a corner on 66 minutes, and City were able to clear comfortably and break away. From that break, Ireland had the ball in the net, but he was rightly flagged offside from Richards’s cross-cum-shot.
Robinho tried to break into the box with 20 minutes to go, but was felled by Carragher on the edge. His attempt at a low, driven free kick was deflected just wide, leaving Reina stranded.
Kompany was then unfortunate to be booked for losing what appeared to be a 50/50 challenge and a minute later was, arguably, lucky to stay on the pitch, after mistiming a challenge as Liverpool broke. It would have been a harsh red card, however, and referee Phil Dowd decided to keep his cards in his pocket.
City were growing in confidence, but they couldn’t quite keep it tight at the back, and Dirk Kuyt took advantage. A cross from the left found Torres in the box, but his attempt on goal was completely mis-hit and luckily fell to Kuyt, who couldn’t miss from five yards.
Given denied Kuyt’s long range effort superbly, before bettering himself when Benayoun volleyed, leaving Dunne and Onuoha to clear the danger.
Nedum Onuoha, with just a minute to go, fancied a bit of a solo run and was perhaps writing the headlines in his mind, as he broke from defence. He beat three Liverpool defenders but his left foot effort was straight down the throat of Reina.
Robinho was then dispossessed as he delayed the cross into the box, leaving time for Ireland to get back onside, before Torres pulled a shot just wide of Given’s post.
It was end-to-end stuff for the three minutes of time added on, but neither side could force the winning goal. City will be the happier of the two sides, despite leading and looking like they could have taken all three points, but 1-1 at Anfield is not a result to be sniffed at.