Top four contenders Liverpool and Man City played out a dour, goalless draw at Eastlands on Sunday afternoon, with both sides scared to lose and neither strong enough to go claim what would have been a key victory for either side.
Instead both moved down the table with Spurs and Aston Villa enjoying comfortable wins. City remain a point and a place ahead of Liverpool, and with a game in hand.
The Liverpool line-up was pretty much what you’d expect – designed to not lose, with Lucas alongside Mascherano, Carragher and Insua full backs, Skrtel and Agger in the middle of defence. There was a surprise inclusion of Ryan Babel who replaced Albert Riera on the left, although it later emerged that was due to David Ngog’s injury and not a move to add some much-needed pace to the team. Maxi started on the right with Dirk moving up front into the role he has never excelled in whenever played up front on his own. See Hull at home and Stoke away last season as further evidence. Disclaimer: Not a dig at Dirk just merely pointing out he (nor anyone else in our squad for that matter) can play the lone forward role apart from Torres.
The game itself offered few clear cut chances for either side. Both more concerned with avoiding defeat than attempting to win the match. Both sides started without their respective top goalscorers, although Torres made the bench for the Reds in a welcome boost. He was joined by Benayoun who has also been sidelined for a month.
It was Benayoun who provided some creativity after coming on late in the second half and his dribble in stoppage time could have resulted in a penalty but the Israeli was arguably too honest for his own good and stayed on his feet when many would have gone to ground.
The highlights of the day were Pepe Reina’s impressive save from Emanuel Adebayor, even though the City forward had handled it in the build-up. Something the referee, Peter Walton, missed – along with plenty of other poor decisions. To be fair to him though, they do say you play to your opposition, or in this case maybe he was just refereeing to the quality around him. Tongue firmly in cheek.
Back to them highlights… err… Martin Skrtel himself was one of them. Looking back to his best he went close with a header in the first half then put in a superb last ditch tackle on Adebayor in the second.
Javier Mascherano was busy and covered a lot of ground in midfield but there would have been no contesting if he’d have seen red – what would have been his third of the season – when he got away with a challenge on Barry having been booked earlier.
After the match both managers agreed a draw was a fair result. More predictably than that, Rafa Benitez said “We were working very hard, we had control.” It really is becoming embarrassing now, when was the last time he didn’t mention ‘control’ after a draw or defeat? Answers on a postcard please.
Liverpool have now scored one League goal away from home in 2010 – when Krygiakos bundled home after Sorensen’s fumble at Stoke. In fact, since the start of October we’ve scored just 5 League goals away from Anfield – one a month.
Dour was the word used by BBC to describe the match. Uninspiring is how I’d describe any Liverpool performance thesedays.
Man City: Given, Zabaleta, Bridge, Lescott, Kompany, Barry, De Jong, Ireland (Ibrahim 75), Wright-Phillips (Bellamy 67), A Johnson, Adebayor
Subs (not used): Taylor, Richards, Sylvinho, Toure, Santa Cruz
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Agger, Skrtel, Insua, Mascherano, Lucas, Maxi (Benayoun 62), Gerrard, Babel (Torres 75), Kuyt (Aquilani 85)
Subs (not used): Cavalieri, Aurelio, Kelly, Riera
Referee: Peter Walton