League Cup Semi Final First Leg
Wednesday 11 January 2012, 19.45 KO
City: Hart, Richards (c), Savic, Lescott, Clichy, de Jong (Kolarov 72), Barry, Milner, A Johnson (Dzeko 66), Balotelli (Nasri 39), Aguero
Unused: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Onuoha, Hargreaves
Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the Match: Micah Richards
There were similarities with how this League Cup tie started and how the Premier League fixture began last week, in that it was the visitors who were the quicker out of the blocks. It needed Hart to pull off a good save from a one-on-one with Andy Carroll, as the striker turned Savic and closed in on goal. The City keeper then needed to push Gerrard’s effort from the edge of the box away for a corner, before he got down brilliantly to react to a deflection from a shot just inside the box.
With just over ten minutes played, though, a corner for the visitors earned them a penalty. The header was missed in front of Agger and he took a touch on his chest, before being brought down by Savic. There were no questions and the referee pointed to the spot; Gerrard dispatched the kick into the bottom left corner, with Hart unlucky not to get a hand on it.
After the goal, Liverpool seemed content to let City have the ball, especially as the hosts were struggling to create anything of note. Richards had a blast from a long way out blocked, with very little on around him, before the injured Balotelli was replaced by Nasri in an attempt to boost the home side’s creativity. He did, immediately getting City’s first shot on target from the edge of the box, though it was easy for Reina.
On the stroke of half time, City should have been level: Richards did well to power past Johnson and get into the box. He pulled the ball back for Milner, arriving on the penalty spot, but the midfielder got his shot all wrong and skied it well wide and well over the bar. It was looking bleak for City, who were clearly missing the spine of the team.
The second half got into a pattern pretty quickly: City struggling to keep the ball and break down the Liverpool defence and Liverpool happy to hold on to their advantage under no real threat from the hosts. Aguero intercepted Kelly’s short backpass, but Reina did enough to close the striker down, who wasn’t able to find the target. Richards then powered a header from a corner at the Liverpool keeper, and City couldn’t force it over the line.
With the clock running down, City introduced Kolarov and Dzeko to try and muster something else at the right end of the pitch, but in the final half hour Reina was barely tested. Crosses were going behind or bouncing through the box and shooting opportunities were few and far between. City needed something and it didn’t come.
To round of the home side’s frustrations, a two-footed tackle from Glenn Johnson on Lescott – arguably worse than Kompany’s on Nani at the weekend – went totally unpunished. It didn’t merit a red card, but having seen the City skipper sent off for a lesser offence and then having seen the appeal dismissed, it left a bitter taste in the mouths of the blues in the stands.
City have it all to do at Anfield.