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Manchester City 2 Liverpool 2 - Prem (Feb 3 2013)

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Man City 2 LIVERPOOL 2

Report by Dave Usher

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Scorer(s) – Daniel Sturridge, Steven Gerrard

Half Time - 0-1

Venue - The Emirates Stadium

Date - Sun 3 Feb 2013

Star Man – Daniel Sturridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you got points for playing well we'd probably be top of the league. Sadly you don't, you get points for winning games irrespective of how you look doing it, and that's an art we're a long way from mastering. The team that sits at the top of the table has collected six points despite having been outplayed by both Southampton and Fulham this week, whilst we've gone to Arsenal and Manchester City and played some great stuff but come away with just two draws.

 

It's both encouraging and deflating at the same time, but at least it looks like we're heading in the right direction and some comfort can be taken from that. As we keep hearing, we haven't beaten any of the sides of above us this season, but that's more of an anomaly than a result of being inferior. We just need one win over a top side to get us over that hump, but between now and May we'll only have three more opportunities to do so, all of them at home.

 

What that tells us is that our run in is a lot easier looking than those of most of our rivals. We've now played most of our more difficult looking fixtures and whilst we're a bit adrift of where we'd like to be, the remaining games offer us a great opportunity to make up some ground and see where that takes us.

 

It's difficult not to get at least a little excited when you see us perform like this, especially given how good Sturridge was. He's brought so much to the side in such a short space of time, it's just a pity he hasn't been here since August as who knows where we'd be now. He put on a masterclass against City, he was by far the best player on the pitch and considering Gerrard was at his imperious best that says a lot about how impressive Sturridge was. I knew he was good, I didn't know he was THIS good though.

 

City will be glad they don't have to face us again this season. That's twice we've played them off the park only to gift them an equaliser they didn't deserve. At Anfield earlier in the season it was Skrtel's error that cost us two points, whereas this time it was Reina. If we stopped shooting ourselves in the foot we'd be a very good side. Many of the wounds we've suffered this season have been self inflicted, it's incredibly frustrating. It's an obvious thing to say that we don't have that winning mentality, but in reality you only get that by winning. It won't happen overnight but if we keep playing like this and learn to cut out the blunders we will get there.

 

It must be doing the manager's head in, as there's literally nothing he can do about individual errors. You can have the best game plan and tactical set up in the world, it can be working perfectly and you can be in complete control, but individual errors will always kill you. Whether it's a missed sitter or a suicidal backpass, those kind of errors will stop you winning games. If we can cut them out we'll be going places.

 

We've had two incredibly difficult away fixtures in the space of four days this week. Avoiding defeat in both is nothing to be sniffed at, and yet it feels like we've had two defeats as we led in both games and should have seen them out. The Arsenal one is easier to accept because the Gunners threw everything at us and deserved to get back into the game. This one? It's a real kick in the balls as City offered very little and we were on top of this game from start to finish. Even after they got back to 2-2 we still looked the more likely winners. That's encouraging.

 

The only negative was the result because performance wise this was brilliant. We did exactly what we wanted to do and City couldn't do anything to prevent us doing it. They hadn't conceded a goal in 2013 but we put two past them. We passed the ball around well, we were dangerous up front and we restricted them to very little at the other end. Reina made a save in the opening minute from Silva's dipping shot from distance, and then after that he had virtually nothing to do. Maybe that's why he did what he did late on, out of boredom.

 

I thought it was interesting to see the difference in the tactical set up between this game and the one at the Emirates. The only change in the line up was a like for like swap at full back, with Enrique coming in for Wisdom, allowing Johnson to revert back to the right flank. The midfield and attack were the same in terms of personnel, but completely different in terms of how they lined up. This was more similar to what we did against Norwich the other week, although a lot of the time it looked a lot like 442 with Henderson playing on the left.

 

The mentality was different too. At Arsenal we clearly went in with the idea of counter attacking. Against City, it was all about getting on the ball and taking the game to them. Suarez had played on the left at the Emirates as we needed to keep that rigid shape and have the extra man in the middle of the park to compete with Arsenal. Against City, he was central and playing much closer to Sturridge.

 

I expected that. It's similar to boxing when they say 'styles make fights'. Arsenal is not a good match up for our style but City is a much better one for us. The games at Anfield against both teams taught us a lot. We learned that Arsenal can beat us at our own game, but we are capable of dominating against City. That was reflected in how we approached the away fixtures. I like that Rodgers is flexible in his approach and isn't afraid to try things and move players around.

 

Yaya Toure said after the game at Anfield it was the most difficult match he'd played in since arriving in England. Fortunately for him (and us!) he was able to sit this one out as he was away on international duty along with his brother. City were without Kompany too, meaning they were without their best - and most physical - players. I looked at their starting line up and there's no way that was better than ours. A midfield of Gareth Barry and Javi Garcia (how shit is he by the way?) is not going to strike fear into anyone, whilst any striker worth his salt would fancy his chances against the pairing of Lescott and Nastisic, who'd never played together before apparently.

 

This was a great chance for us to turn them over, and we did do in everything but final score. The passing and control of the game we had in the first half was good, but in the second it was even better. We created far more chances than them, we had more of the ball and we looked comfortably the better side. And yet we fell behind to the only real attack of note they had in the first half. That's our big problem now, teams don't have to work very hard to score against us.

 

Our main flaw not so long ago was the lack of goals in our team and an over reliance on Suarez. We seem to have solved that now, Sturridge's arrival has gone a long way to fixing that whilst Gerrard's return to goalscoring form has obviously helped too. We're scoring plenty, unfortunately we're shipping too many at the other end.

 

City's first was just too easy. Agger played them onside and then lost concentration for a second as he appealed for a flag that was never going to come. As a result he didn't get himself into a good enough position to stop Dzeko getting in behind him and the striker had a tap in. It was alarming just how easily Milner manager to get in behind us too. We saw it a lot the other night at Arsenal, a couple of passes around the edge of the box and then suddenly a runner is in behind us.

 

Is it a flaw in our defending, or is it simply a case of good teams being capable of doing that? I'd say it's probably more the latter. It's unrealistic to go to places like Arsenal and City and stop them from doing anything. These are good teams, with top class players, they're always going to do SOMETHING in a game. There's an expression used in the NFL when the opposing team makes a good play. "They get paid too". In other words, these lads can play a bit as well you know.

 

So whilst their first goal was disappointing from our point of view, over the course of ninety minutes they didn't do that kind of thing too often so I'd give credit to our players for that. I can just about live with their first goal, I can't live with the second as that was just completely inexcusable.

 

It's really deflating when you're on top in a game and then concede with the first thing the other team does of any note. It happens too often with us, and when Dzeko put City in front I honestly didn't think we'd come back, I was just sulking thinking 'typical Liverpool'. It wasn't 'typical Liverpool' though, we've got more firepower since the addition of Sturridge, and just imagine how much better things will be if Coutinho could have a similar impact?

 

Sturridge was unplayable against City. Maybe the added motivation of playing against his former side gave him that extra gear, but he was showing things in this game I haven't seen before. I always saw him as a quick, sharp forward who would score goals but wasn't much of a team player and wouldn't be too involved in the build up. I was fine with that too by the way, as long as he was scoring goals I could live with any other failings he had.

 

Against City though he just blew that misconception of mine out of the water. His touch and hold up play was brilliant, his awareness of where his team-mates were was also impressive and he basically put on a clinic on how to play centre forward. Skill, strength, vision, pace, touch, finishing, work rate… you name it he showed it. And he did it with a bad wheel too, having picked up an injury in the first half that he said prevented him from sprinting flat out.

 

Good job for City he couldn't go flat out, because even at 80% he had too much for them to handle. Nastisic got skinned by him down our left flank in the first half, Sturridge just got him turned and then accelerated past him down the line. That was impressive, but even more impressive was the awareness he showed to cut the ball back perfectly for Suarez who sadly miscued his shot. Exciting stuff though.

 

His goal was class; a really sweet struck shot that gave Hart no chance. He refused to celebrate it even though City's fans had been booing him and calling him a 'greedy bastard'. Yes, that's right, fans of Manchester City were calling a player a greedy bastard, with no hint of irony whatsoever. In Sturridge's shoes I'd have been giving it the big 'un right in front of them for that, but to his credit he didn't. I remember he showed the same respect when he scored against Bolton when he was playing for Chelsea. With class and morals like that it's little wonder he didn't succeed in the cesspit that is Chelsea. Looks like he's found a home now though.

 

City can complain all they like about what happened with Dzeko, but they had plenty of time to win the ball back and Dzeko being down didn't make any difference as he'd have been ahead of the ball anyway. Maybe it should have been a free-kick (although you could easily interpret that as Dzeko obstructing Agger's attempt to try and nip in to win the ball), but everyone in the stadium knew he wasn't injured and he just wanted to stop the game so he could halt our attack and give the ref shit over not giving him a free-kick.

 

We always put the ball out when players are down and it pisses me off as most of the time you can tell there's nothing wrong with them. If it's a bad injury then by all means put the ball out, but generally if it's a bad injury you don't need to as the ref will stop the game. Anthony Taylor knew exactly what Dzeko was up to and apparently he told our players 'Play on! Play on!'. They did, and they were right to do so.

 

City have no cause for complaint on that score, and that tit Mancini plumbed new depths by waffling on about how Agger could have been red carded. He's the biggest fraud in the Premier League he is. He made his name at Inter through default because the rest of the big boys had been caught cheating and Inter were basically the last man standing. He's done fuck all in Europe, and although City fans obviously love him because he ended their title drought, they won that title in spite of him, not because of him. 75% of Premier League managers could have won the title with that brilliant squad City had last season, and they wouldn't have needed until the last second of the last day to do it either.

 

He's an over-rated, smug, sulky twat and his interviews make me want to slap him across the face with a big fish. His English is terrible, he makes no sense and he pouts and preens too much. They're the least watchable interviews of any manager in the league not named Ferguson, he's just a bad whopper and if City have any sense they'll bin him off in the summer. The fact City are basically handing another title to United may be adding to my hostility towards him, but still… I don't think I'm wrong.

 

Anyway, we got back on level terms and then continued to dominate the game. City were rattled and their fans weren't happy, especially with the referee who was getting it with both barrels with every decision awarded against them. City looked lost, there was no fluidity to their play and no spark. Zabalata almost put the ball into his own net in comical circumstances when he didn't see Hart coming out and knocked the ball past him. It went wide of the post by about an inch.

 

The second half saw us really turn the screw on them. It felt like we must have had 70% possession, we passed it around well and had City chasing shadows at times. The game couldn't have gone any better in terms of the pattern of play. We were clearly on top and it's encouraging to see us go away from home to a top side and play like this.

 

Sturridge was clearly bothered by his thigh but it didn't stop him from causing them plenty of problems. The one blemish was a booking for a dive after he'd waltzed past Lescott. Difficult one this, as his back leg was caught by Lescott and we've seen penalties given for a lot less. It wasn't enough to justify him going down and he wasn't going to keep the ball in anyway. No real complaints about the booking, he may have just innocently lost his footing but by flinging his arms back like that he made it look theatrical and a yellow card was fair.

 

Every time we went forward we looked dangerous, but Suarez didn't have his shooting boots on and missed the target with a couple of efforts he could have done better with. Gerrard's goal was richly deserved. A great strike, vintage Gerrard. Having got our noses in front the question now was what would we do? Would we sit back and hope to see it out? Or would we carry on playing the way we had been? We weren't in front long enough to be able to tell.

 

Rodgers sent on Skrtel for Enrique, but I wouldn't say that was a defensive move or tactical switch. Enrique just looked like he'd ran out of gas. He'd played well for an hour or so, but then Milner began getting a bit too much joy on the flank and got a couple of crosses in as Enrique was no longer as tight to him as he had been. The change made sense, and Agger did very well when he switched to left back.

 

Unfortunately we conceded just five minutes after going ahead, but I don't think it was a result of sitting back and inviting pressure, as we certainly didn't seem to be under any. In fact, we were inches away from making it 3-1 when Sturridge headed Gerrard's free-kick just past the post. Then within seconds of that City were level.

 

Aguero chased a ball played in behind, but Skrtel was with him and had the situation under control. Either he'd beat Aguero to the ball and clear the danger, or Aguero would get there first and Skrtel would stay goal side of him and force him away from the danger area. Either way, Aguero was not getting a shot away, and even if he did he was out wide and it would have been virtually impossible to score.

 

Sadly Reina had a massive brain fart and came charging out when there was really no need. It was an awful error of judgement, but he can consider himself unfortunate that he was punished so severely. It was great technique from Aguero to collect the ball and sweep it into the empty net from such an acute angle, but if he had that chance ten times how often would he convert it? Once? Twice? Three times at most.

 

That's the way things are going for us at the moment though. It's gut wrenching to see what would have been a huge victory for us given away so cheaply, but in terms of the bigger picture the performance was more important then result, and even after that setback we bounced back and could have won it but for a great block by a defender from Gerrard's shot, and a fine save from Hart to keep out Sturridge.

 

We're progressing and should have more points than we've got, but we're on an upward curve and need to keep it going. These draws at Arsenal and City will look a whole lot better if we beat all the teams we should be beating between now and May. The players will no doubt have taken great confidence from what they've done this week, and if they take this form into the home games we've got coming up against West Brom and Swansea then the table might suddenly be looking a little better afterwards, as those above us have some difficult games coming up.

 

Fitness permitting, the side that played against City should be the one we stick with going forward unless people play themselves out of contention with poor form. Coutinho will presumably be eased into it off the bench, which is ideal as he finds his feet, but the good thing is there aren't any passengers at the moment and everyone is playing quite well.

 

 

Team: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique (Skrtel); Downing, Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson; Suarez, Sturridge:

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Spot on as per usual. Agree about mancini, fraudulent cunt. Hope he stays there though because City will never become the powerhouse in world football with him in charge. Imagine Mourinho say, with all that money to spend? Could well be unstoppable.

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Great report mate and, like you, I feel things are very much on track. Clearly there's a long way to go but the direction is very exciting.

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Usual spot on report Dave. Be great to get a good run in now just like the Reds used to do in the old days. The shape and confidence is definitely there considering the past two games.

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Excellent report. The "styles make fights" point about the tactical changes is bang on.

 

Sturridge looks like a fantastic player; maybe even better than I had thought. I'm sure you saw him a good few times at youth level Dave so you will have known the raw talent he has. It's hard to believe that Chelsea played Torres ahead of him for so long.

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Great report as usual.

 

Luck is a strange thing: As soon as Aguerro scored I thought of our previous game against Arsenal when Scezney had a rush of blood and Jordan Henderson floated a decent effort on to the roof of the net from a more inviting angle.

 

Reina has a similar rush of blood against City and gets punished in brutal fashion even though Aguerro was off balance and at an almost impossible angle.

 

I know Aguerro is world class, but fucking hell we really do need an urgent word with Lady Luck. She's been sleeping on the job for way too long now.

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Excellent report. The "styles make fights" point about the tactical changes is bang on.

 

Sturridge looks like a fantastic player; maybe even better than I had thought. I'm sure you saw him a good few times at youth level Dave so you will have known the raw talent he has. It's hard to believe that Chelsea played Torres ahead of him for so long.

 

The sad thing about Sturrigde (if true) is that I seem to remember us being offered Sturrigde as a part of the Torres deal for £5m. With Suarez already signed, that could even have saved us a £35m Carroll deal.

 

Off course it may very well just have been speculation, but I remember there were talk about Sturrigde, but we refused and wanted the whole fee in cash.

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Luck is a strange thing: As soon as Aguerro scored I thought of our previous game against Arsenal when Scezney had a rush of blood and Jordan Henderson floated a decent effort on to the roof of the net from a more inviting angle.

 

Never even thought of that, but yeah that's a good point.

 

The sad thing about Sturrigde (if true) is that I seem to remember us being offered Sturrigde as a part of the Torres deal for £5m. With Suarez already signed, that could even have saved us a £35m Carroll deal.

 

Off course it may very well just have been speculation, but I remember there were talk about Sturrigde, but we refused and wanted the whole fee in cash.

 

Yeah, apparently we could have had him as part of the deal and turned it down. At the time I didn't mind, I was made up with Big Andy! Would love to have that one back now though.

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Guest San Don

Nothing I can disagree with. Laughed my tits off about mancini though. He's not a good manager despite the talent city have. They should be romping this league.

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I can see one passenger Dave......Lucas is awful since his return, and he should probably slowly start to be match fit.

 

He's been up and down. He struggled against Arsenal but was better against City. Not at his top level but he wasn't a weak link either. Thought he was looking a lot more like his old self against Norwich, but then the Arsenal game showed that he wasn't.

 

It'll take time and maybe Allen will come back into the reckoning if Lucas doesn't improve.

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Well fuck me ragged. No chorus calling for Pepe's head? Hmmm. Perhaps it's early doors yet and not many people have read this predictably good report.

 

But just to head them off; yes, Pepe's intervention was ill-judged and yes, it was likely (though by no means certain given recent performances) Skrtel had it covered. Could it indeed be argued that it was precisely Skrtel's recent drop in form that swung the decision for Pepe? Whatever the case, shit happens. It was a stonking goal and had Luis hit it, we'd be wanking him off forever more. And he'd have scored it nine times out of ten.

 

What happened for Aguero's goal adds no credence to those who seem to revel in battering Pepe. Hart's lack of clear communication with Zabalata could so easily have resulted in an OG but you'd have heard few of their capricious lot calling for his Head And Shoulders.

 

Pepe is fine. More than fine. He's an asset to our team and I struggle to see where a replacement would come from, let alone when. In my eyes, we've a history of letting decent keepers go who've proceeded on to perform more-than creditably elsewhere. Like any keeper, when a goal is conceded, his performance comes under the spotlight. When we stop shipping goals by losing attackers by raising arms for offside, letting them in behind us, losing the ball in our own half and all-too-frequently affording them space at the far post, perhaps the focus will shift and coincidentally we'll start winning these games.

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I'm confused, didn't you used to like Mancini, when did you go off him? Or was that AVB?

 

75% of Premier League managers could have won the title with that brilliant squad City had last season.

 

I think that's unfair. Great players don't automatically equal a great team *cough* England *cough*

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Which keepers have left us and gone on to be better?

 

I'd say only Friedel.

What I actually said was that keepers we've let go have "proceeded to perform more-than creditably elsewhere".

 

That you'd "say only Friedel" is telling in itself. Any former player, let alone ex-'keepers is going to be arguable, I'd agree, but some would say James is another.

 

At one time, it seemed that every team we'd play had one of our ex-'keepers playing for their team.

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Good report.

No complaints about Dzeko's foul. Didn't like it at the time, but in the cold light of day, he wasn't injured, and I've no time for the dramatics (of any player, in any team).

 

Partly agree about Manicini's interviews. It's a ruse to just avoid clear statements. I'm certain his English is better than he lets on. Not quite as convinced it's easy to replace him with a guaranteed winner.

 

All in all, Liverpool played better and looked the more dominant for 90% of the game. Deserved a win (in my opinion).

Looking at things the other way though.... you have to play that well just to get a draw at City these days.... which gives me some comfort from the City side of things.

 

Sturridge played very well indeed, but that's often the way when a player returns to a former club. Suarez looked capable of causing damage at any moment, but we were lucky enough not to be on the receiving end.

 

Gerrard ran the show from midfield.

 

Lucas didn't appear to offer much, but that's possibly a little unfair on him. Sometimes, players carry out their task and go unnoticed.

 

Enrique looked a weak spot.

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