FA Premier League
Sunday 3 February 2013, 16.00 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta (c), Nastasic (Kolarov 56), Lescott, Clichy, Milner, Garcia, Barry (Nasri 88), Silva (Maicon 74), Dzeko, Aguero
Unused: Pantilimon, Rodwell, Sinclair, Tevez
Goals: Dzeko (23), Aguero (78)
Booked: Dzeko, Garcia
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Man of the Match: James Milner
Following a United win at Fulham yesterday, City went into the game knowing nothing less than a win would be good enough. And they went for the jugular, with Silva teeing himself up for a volley just 30 seconds into the game and forcing Reina into a good save to tip it over the bar. But if the home fans were hoping this would start something, they were to be sorely disappointed, as the blues ended up second best pretty much for most of the game.
With 13 minutes played, Hart came racing off his line to confront Sturridge and misjudged the bounce of the ball horribly, leaving the former City striker to take it around the goalkeeper. Fortunately for the hosts, though, Zabaleta was on the line to clear, as Hart was stranded. Shortly after, Suarez should have done a lot better when Sturridge’s pull back found him free in the box, but he sliced his shot almost out for a throw in.
Somewhat against the run of play, City got themselves in front. Milner broke well down the left flank and drove a great low cross into the box. Neither Agger nor Reina could do anything about it and it left Dzeko with a simple job to steer the ball into the back of the net from inside the six yard box.
But on the half hour: Controversy. Agger clearly fouled Dzeko, who was left in a heap, but the referee and linesman ignored it, while Liverpool played on, choosing not to play the ball out. The end result was a long shot from Sturridge, flashing past Hart into the bottom corner. City didn’t defend it well enough, while Dzeko picked up a yellow card for his protests about the foul in the build-up.
With half time approaching, City’s defending was summed up by a breakdown in communications. Hart came out to collect a loose ball in the box, while Zabaleta played it back towards the City keeper. It rolled straight past Hart, but fortunately for the home side, straight past the post and behind for an easily preventable corner.
The second half changed little. City were still second best all over the pitch, despite Milner’s low cross nearly sneaking in at the back post as it missed everybody in the box. Sturridge picked up a yellow card for a daft dive under a challenge from Lescott, before he tried to speed past Milner. But the England international wasn’t in a mood for giving in and stole the ball from the Liverpool man and cleared his lines.
Liverpool pressed and, despite failing to test Hart in the City goal, were looking the more likely to score, while the blues looked like a team of players who had never met each other. Passes were going astray, while Hart was flapping at most of what came into the box.
With 73 minutes played, the inevitable happened and the visitors took the lead. City, again slow out after clearing the first ball, allowed Gerrard time to control from 25 yards. And, after chest-trapping the ball, he unleashed a viscous volley straight into the bottom corner. Hart was helpless and City were toothless, Liverpool fully deserving the be in front.
The lead lasted five minutes, thanks to a moment of individual brilliance. Aguero raced through to nick the ball ahead of Reina and take it a yard past the Spanish keeper. Despite being on the right flank and on a tight angle, he half-volleyed the ball into the bottom corner of the unguarded goal, from the edge of the box. It was a fantastic finish.
With stoppage time approaching, Maicon had the chance to steal all three points for the blues, as he headed over from a left wing corner. At the other end, it was Hart who saved City’s blushes with a terrific save from Sturridge, tipping the ball onto the post as the striker hit another effort from range. Agger picked up the rebound, but couldn’t force it home. Liverpool pressed for the winner, while City hung on grimly for a point.
But now nine points behind United, a point wasn’t good enough. It’s looking increasingly like United’s title.