Barclay’s English Premiership
Saturday 21 November 2009, 12:45 KO
City: Given, Zabaleta, Lescott, Touré (c) (Onuoha 45), Bridge, Barry (Tevez 60), Ireland, de Jong, Bellamy, Wright-Phillips, Bellamy, Adebayor
Unused: Taylor, Johnson, Kompany, Weiss, Santa Cruz
Goals: Adebayor (68), Ireland (75)
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Stephen Ireland
City went into the game looking for a spot in the top four and to cement a position above Liverpool with a victory, although it wouldn’t be easy despite Liverpool missing their key man Torres. Liverpool would have been looking to get their season back on track, after so many disappointing results.
And it was Liverpool who began the first half the stronger, attacking the Kop in the opening seconds, but the first attack came to nothing as Ngog couldn’t get onto the end of a through ball.
Just three minutes into the game and Given was called upon to make a very good save. The ball was clipped in from a Liverpool free kick, flicked to the back post by Agger, where Skrtel met it and Given pushed it around the post. Agger was injured in the attack and Liverpool were forced to take him off.
With eight minutes gone, City should have done better with their first attack. Barry was free in the area in acres of space, but he decided to try and flick the ball into him on for Adebayor, when he had time to control and shoot, but perhaps he didn’t realise that at the time, and Reina punched it away.
A flying tackle from Nigel de Jong stopped Babel in his tracks and the Liverpool Dutchman took out Stephen Gerrard with a flailing arm, leaving both needing medical attention. Babel left the action soon after.
With just 15 minutes gone, Carragher was booked for a high foul on Craig Bellamy, the Liverpool defender not happy with the decision, but the replays showing he didn’t have a case for complaint.
An incorrect offside flag denied Adebayor a shot on goal, but in truth it would have been a half chance, right upon Reina with Carragher closing him down.
Gerrard then fired a volley well wide as he got a lucky bounce off Lescott, before Bridge deflected a Dirk Kuyt shot wide.
Bellamy then knocked the ball inside for Ireland, whose beautifully disguised step over let the ball reach Wright-Phillips and the little winger could only slice the ball wide from the edge of the box.
With 40 minutes on the clock, Given had to be alert as Ngog skipped past Lescott, but Touré was there to cover and the City goalkeeper collected.
The last chance of the half fell to Liverpool. Gerrard’s shot, after a quick free kick just inside the City half, deflected off Barry but it was straight at Given. The half finished even, but Liverpool were on top.
The first action of the second half saw the home side take the lead. Zabaleta grabbed too much of Ngog for Phil Dowd’s liking and gave away a free kick on Liverpool’s wide left. The ball was swung in by Gerrard and Skrtel lost Adebayor in the box to touch it past Given.
The goal, though, seemed to spur City on. Ireland played a ball just too far ahead of Barry in the box, before Wright-Phillips wriggled free but couldn’t get a cross to a City shirt.
Tevez was then dragged down just inside the Liverpool half as City tried to break, and the Liverpool fans wanted a handball by de Jong from their attack – but to have given it would have been much more than dubious.
Zabaleta and Tevez then combined well to force a City corner, as Zabaleta on the overlap looked to get a shot away. Bellamy then did well to send a pull-back Adebayor’s way and force a corner.
From that corner, City got their equaliser. Bellamy’s superb delivery found Adebayor on the penalty spot, he’d lost Skrtel and he nodded it down past Reina. City were on top and good value for their goal.
And, minutes later, City were ahead. The ball was fed into Wright-Phillips in the box and he wriggled away from the defender to fire across to Ireland. The Irishman was unmarked and couldn’t miss; he knocked it straight past Reina for 1-2.
But just as City would have wanted to keep it tight, Liverpool hit them with a sucker punch. Ngog was given a second chance to volley after the City defence didn’t clear and his shot deflected off Lescott and spun across goal, beating Given. Zabaleta at the back post had switched off and Benayoun slid in to equalise immediately after City had taken the lead.
From the kick-off, City had a good chance to re-take the lead. The ball fell to Wright-Phillips on the edge of the box via Ireland and his low drive tested Reina, who had to hold it with Adebayor closing in.
With a minute to go, Wright-Phillips saved City a point, when he got up on the back post ahead of Kyrgiakos to concede a corner, before Lucas could have won it for the home side, but his effort from a free header on the six yard box was well wide.
It was the sixth draw on the bounce for Mark Hughes’s men. Though the City manager will be disappointed with the defending for both of Liverpool’s goals and at conceding so quickly after taking the lead, a point at the start of the day would have been a good result.