|Skrtel 34||Y Toure 63|
|Suarez 66||Tevez 80|
Ah, a case of what might have been.
I don't like Martin Skrtel. This will be apparent to anyone who has read the numerous articles written on this site over the past 18 months. It's nothing personal against the lad but I just can't see why he is held in such high regard when he lacks the most basic defending skills. Every time I see him play I think there's an accident waiting to happen.
Ironically, for the first 79 minutes of today's thoroughly entertaining game I was prepared to overlook my usual bias against him. He popped up with the goal that the Reds play so desperately deserved in the first half and everything was looking rosy. Then in the 80th minute all my anti-Skrtel-ness came flooding back.
Up to and even after this point, it was a game in which Liverpool absolutely deserved to win, and that's not something I say too often. From the bold move of giving Raheem Sterling his first Premier League start to the majestic midfield performance of Joe Allen, this was a home side display that gave us genuine cause for optimism for the rest of this season.
City started reasonably well and had the lion's share of possession in the opening 20 minutes. There was also unfortunate news for Lucas who hobbled off after only 4 minutes, suffering an injury that was apparently sustained in the warm up.
Despite this set back it was the Reds that carved out the first clear-cut chance of the game in the 17th minute. A glorious cross from Sterling found Borini stretching at the near post but he failed to get the desired connection with his right foot. In truth he should have gone in with his left.
Two minutes later and City were unlucky not to be ahead themselves. Tevez broke free in the box and dinked the ball past Reina from a very acute angle. Miraculously the spin on the ball took it away from goal after it hit the post, as Reina breathed a sigh of relief.
The Reds began to settle in to their passing game now with the impressive Allen dictating the tempo. Borini was on hand again in the 21st minute with a turn and shot which was deflected away for a corner. Upon winning the corner the Italian gestured to the Kop to raise the volume up to eleven, and they duly obliged. It was the kind of thing that you would usually expect to see in the dying moments of a crucial match and gave us some insight into Borini's passion.
In the 33rd minute Vincent Kompany sliced a vicious Steven Gerrard cross over his own bar, resulting a corner which led to the opening goal. Gerrard's pinpoint delivery found Martin Skrtel who crashed his header home before Joe Harte could spit his gum at it. Interestingly enough I had watched this video some weeks ago which shows that there was almost certainly some training ground architecture behind Skrtel's goal. More of this, please.
It was fantastic to score while being on top of the opposition, something which time and time again did not happen last season. What was even more encouraging was the way the Reds pressed for a second goal before half time. The clearest of these chances fell to Suarez who dragged his shot wide in the 42nd minute.
The second half continued pretty much from where the first half left off, with the Reds dominating midfield. Mancini could see that changes were needed now, bringing on Rodwell for the anonymous Nasri. This improved things a little for the visitors but their equalising goal was still one that should have been avoided.
Tevez somehow found himself in a one-on-one with Sterling down the right and his cross was badly flapped at by Reina. Even worse than that the ball then bounced off Kelly's thigh at the back post giving Yaya Toure a simple tap-in. It was a catalogue of errors and as per last week against West Brom, the Reds were rightly punished.
However there was barely any time to feel sorry for ourselves as the Reds were back in the lead just two minutes later. Steven Gerrard's optimistic strike from distance was blocked by the sliding Rodwell, with the referee blowing for handball. Replays showed it was a harsh decision as the ball deflected off the former Bluenose's leg before hitting his arm. Nevertheless up stepped Luis Suarez with an inch perfect free kick, the ball bending around the wall and nestling in the far corner. Glorious stuff.
On the balance of play it seemed only right that we were in front. City looked off colour and lacked the vibrancy usually provided by Aguero and Silva. It was all looking nice and cosy for a home win until my good friend Martin decided otherwise.
It was in the 80th minute when we had the rick to end all ricks. Skrtel, in truly suicidal fashion, attempted to play the ball back to Reina without looking up and Tevez easily intercepted the pass. The hideous little scamp finished well, coolly rounding Reina and it was 2-2.
Given Skrtel's antics against West Brom there will no doubt be plenty of Reds' fans thinking what an unlucky week the Slovak has had. Well I'm afraid luck doesn't come into it and if you check my comments at the bottom of this page you'll find that I even grimly predicted today's calamity.
Regardless of Skrtel costing us the three points, there were far more positives than negatives today. The midfield looked great at times, and Nuri Sahin will only make things even more interesting. The quality of the pressing and the work rate from the likes of Sterling and Borini was outstanding as well.
This was a fine first home league game under Brendan Rodgers and as I've said about a million times over the past couple of weeks, the addition of one or two more forwards will see us in good stead for the season. We can't expect mountains to be moved in the next nine months but with the rate of progress I've seen so far, things are looking good.
Subs: Shelvey for Lucas (5), Enrique for Kelly (66), Carroll for Borini (83)
Unused Subs: Jones, Carragher, Henderson, Downing