|Y Toure 33|
|Milner (pen) 75|
Mediocrity?! I wish!.
Man City are unlikely to have an easier victory this season. On a stormy night in Manchester they never even had to break sweat. For large parts of the game it was embarrassing as the home side afforded us all the possession in the world, safe in the knowledge there would be no penetration.
I disagreed with the starting eleven Kenny chose tonight for the simple reason it desperately lacked pace and energy, so on that basis maybe it's time to look at a Rafa-style fact. That starting eleven has scored a combined total of 8 league goals in 20 games this season. That is absolutely pathetic. Included in that list of shame are Downing (0) and Kuyt (0).
Mr. Downing decided to pass up another opportunity tonight to get his name on the scoresheet, as if he has some sort of perverted bet at the bookies. A wonderful first-time pass from Jordan Henderson put him clean through with the first real chance of the game in the 8th minute. He took the usual option of the gentle side foot which Hart comfortably blocked.
Against the run of play Man City went ahead two minutes later. Aguero's speculator from 25 yards took a bit of a dip but still should have been comfortably saved by Reina. Instead it went under him for his second major blooper of the season.
What followed from the Reds was 20 minutes of "pressure" which consisted of more toothless action than the director's cut of Cocoon. It's not like I haven't been through all this a million times before this season, but it still never ceases to amaze me how awful we are in the final third. Then, as if to completely take the piss out of us, Man City strolled up the pitch and duly scored from a corner. Game over on 33 minutes.
Kenny's solution in the second half was to introduce Steven Gerrard and Craig Bellamy. This resulted in us completely losing what little shape we had. Stewart Downing wasn't great on the left but he was a disaster when moved to the right to accommodate Bellamy. It left me wondering if Kenny was in charge of the title winning Blackburn side of '95 today, would we see Wilcox and Ripley on opposite flanks? I seriously doubt it.
Surprisingly enough Andy Carroll had one of his better games tonight, especially considering the ineptitude of his colleagues. His hold-up play and layoffs were an improvement on recent performances for a start. I'm not sure what else could have been expected of him considering no one joined him from midfield, he had zero service from wide areas, and even when Gerrard was introduced he played in the middle as opposed to feeding him from the right! Hopeless stuff.
A truly painful second half was completed when Martin Skrtel knocked over Yaya Toure following a swift counter-attack in the 74th minute. Whatever about the recent run of clean sheets we've had at the back the Slovak has always been a disaster when placed under any kind of pressure. As usual he was trying to swap shirts with his man at set pieces as well. Carragher might be finished but there's no way he should be playing second fiddle to this plonk. James Milner converted the resultant penalty with minimum fuss (see how it's done, boys?!)
Gareth Barry was dismissed for a second booking shortly before the penalty. This however had no impact on the match partly due to the fact that Barry has never influenced a game in his life, and partly due to the fact that Man City knew we would not score even if Joe Hart was blind-folded.
Bellamy and Gerrard both flashed shots in on goal in the closing minutes, probably so the saddos who use statistics to define match performances can promote the illusion of competiveness in tonight's game. Being as objective as possible, it seemed to me that the Man City players genuinely knew that we would not be able to hit a barn door tonight. And even on the off-chance we fluked one, they would just up it a gear if necessary.
Things may have been different had Steven Gerrard and Craig Bellamy started. However with Gerrard constantly wrapped in cotton wool and the rumours about Bellamy's knees persisting, it's difficult to see them ever getting a solid run of games. The last thing we need this season is for those two to be fresh when there's nothing left to play for, so that's going to be a difficult call for Kenny and the management team.
Unlike most people, I'm dismissing the fact that Luis Suarez was unavailable tonight as pretty much irrelevant. We've been just as toothless with him as without, and for all his creativity and magic I must reiterate that he's scored one goal in his last eleven games. Without a proper strike partner (sorry, Andy) he is unlikely to ever be the solution to the problem.
In fact the only real solution at this juncture would appear to be 5 or 6 new signings in key attacking areas but that ain't gonna happen, obviously. I'd like to say we should just accept this mediocrity for what it is (enter your own rebuilding cliché here), but the 8 in 20 stat quoted above doesn't even qualify as that. At least now we know what it's like to have been supporting the likes of Aston Villa all these years.
Subs: Bellamy for Kuyt (57), Gerrard for Adam (57), Maxi for Spearing (76)
Unused Subs: Doni, Kelly, Carragher, Shelvey.