After The Match 


Manchester City-Liverpool 0-0      21.2.10                          PL
Team: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Insua, Kuyt, Lucas, Mascherano, Maxi, Gerrard, Babel
Subs: Benayoun (Maxi 63), Torres (Babel 75), Aquilani (Kuyt 86)
Not used: Cavalieri, Riera, Aurelio, Kelly
Yellow: Macherano (31), Gerrard (45 ), Babel (63), Benayoun (67), Kuyt (76), Torres (90)
Barry (54)
Red: None
Referee: Peter Walton
Attendance: 47.203
Shots on target: 1-1
Shots off target: 3-2
Blocked shots: 1-4
Fouls conceded: 9-15
Corners: 8-6
Offsides: 3-2
Possession: 43.6-56.4
Yellow: 1-6

HEADLINES "I think that both teams were working hard in defence..."
Rafael Benitez
2302: Manchester City draw a great
          result for Liverpool FC

2202: Benayoun plans to get creative
          in race for fourth place

2202: Barry: Too much at stake
2202: TV lucky to miss out on Liverpool FC
          shocker at Manchester City

2102: Benitez keeps believing
2102: City and Reds serve up stalemate 

Manchester City draw a great
result for Liverpool FC

Comment by Mark Lawrenson - Liverpool Daily Post

There was loads of negativity surrounding the quality of the Manchester City v Liverpool game.

But what’s the problem? I certainly don’t see one for Liverpool in getting a goalless draw there – in fact, there were some major positives to emerge from the game for me.

When you avoid defeat against your rivals, you don’t give them a significant advantage.

Okay, Liverpool have dropped to sixth but you would have expected Spurs and Aston Villa to win yesterday – and I’d rather have the games we’ve got coming up than City have.

Also, the Eastlands pitch welcomed the return of Fernando Torres to the first team and that gives the team a completely different look going into the season’s climax.

So everyone stop moaning about the absence of free-flowing football.

Rafael Benitez has made Liverpool difficult to beat again. That’s the way it is and if it provides a platform for fourth that’s fine – even if Liverpool have to bore their way there.

Benayoun plans to get creative
in race for fourth place

By Dominic King - Liverpool Echo

Yossi Benayoun insists Liverpool’s creative players need to raise their game to wrestle back the initiative in the race for the Champions League.

Having been sidelined since January 13 with a broken rib, the Israeli midfielder was thrilled to be back in the thick of things after coming on as a 63rd-minute substitute for Maxi Rodriguez.

Despite showing some nice touches and plenty of energy, Benayoun could not help inspire the Reds, who were held to a 0-0 draw by Manchester City in what was an instantly forgettable encounter.

The result was of no benefit to either side, as victories for Tottenham and Aston Villa yesterday enabled both to get back in the race for fourth place.

Only a point separates that quartet but – even though he concedes Liverpool are struggling to show their best form – Benayoun is confident they will still come out on top by the end of the campaign.

“We wanted to win but you have to remember that we were playing against a good team away from home,” said Benayoun, whose lively cameo saw him pick up a booking and nearly win Liverpool a penalty.

“One point was not good enough but it wasn’t bad either. We are still in the race for fourth place and that is the most important thing.”

When asked whether he saw anything from City that should worry Liverpool over the remaining 11 games, he replied: “No, no.

“I think they have a lot of quality players. Like us, they can have some good games and some bad games. The last few games (for Liverpool) have been not so good and it has been the same for them.

“I think the race will go to the end between us, Man City, Tottenham and Villa. We know where we need to improve.

“We need to create more and do more up front.

“Hopefully the defence will keep playing well. We have got the best defence in the league. Now we need to create more and then the goals will come.”

Benayoun was one of Liverpool’s most consistent performers in the first half of the campaign but, since pulling his hamstring in a 2-2 draw with Birmingham in November, he has experienced a dip in fortunes.

But now he is up and running again, Benayoun is determined to recapture his sparkle and give Rafa Benitez’s side a lift.

“For any player the worst thing that can happen to you is to be injured,” said Benayoun. “So I’m just happy to be back after being out for a few weeks.

“It was difficult but hopefully now I can keep working hard in training, try to improve and try to help the team.”

Barry: Too much at stake

Sky Sports

Gareth Barry admits Manchester City's 0-0 draw at home to Liverpool was a game neither of the UEFA Champions League hopefuls wanted to lose.

Sunday's showdown at the City of Manchester Stadium was a wretched affair, with the only notable highlight being Pepe Reina's full-stretch save from Emmanuel Adebayor in the second half.

The stalemate allowed Tottenham Hotspur to move into fourth position after their victory at Wigan Athletic, but only one point separates the four contenders for the final Champions League place.

Barry concedes City were disappointed not to win the game, but appeared satisfied to take a point from the encounter given what was at stake.

"It was one of those games with no real chances," the midfielder told the club's official website. "There was a lot at stake and you could tell. We are slightly disappointed not to win as the home team.

"But anyone watching the game would sense that neither team wanted to lose. There was so much to lose if the other team got three points. It was very tactical out there.

"Shay Given only had one shot to save, and Pepe Reina only had the one shot from Emmanuel Adebayor. It was just so tight, because nobody on that pitch wanted to lose the game.

"You have to show Liverpool respect. They are not having as good a season as they would like, but they are still a hard team to beat. We will hopefully be able to build on a solid point."

Barry also confirmed that he is feeling fine after taking a late kick on the ankle from Javier Mascherano, who was fortunate not to receive a second yellow card after referee Peter Walton failed to award a free-kick.

Barry added: "I was facing the other way, so I didn't even see who it was. It was just a kick, it's nothing. I'm fine."

Craig Bellamy appeared as a second-half substitute against his former club and Barry was quick to play down reports the winger had fallen out with manager Roberto Mancini in the build-up to the game.

"We've had headlines all season," said the England international. "We're a club that's in transition and have spent a lot of money to reach the top, so we are going to be news. Headlines come with the territory.

"There was a slight difference in opinion, not a row. The manager and Craig Bellamy are both winners, and they both have strong opinions. That's got to be good for the club."

TV lucky to miss out on Liverpool FC
shocker at Manchester City

Comment by Dominic King - Liverpool Echo

Perhaps those in charge of programme planning at the two satellite broadcasters really are blessed with the gift of being able to see into the future.

When the roster for this weekend’s round of televised matches was published just after Christmas, eyebrows were raised that a potentially titanic clash between Manchester City and Liverpool was missed off the list.

Now we know why those tussles between Wigan and Tottenham, Blackburn and Bolton, not to mention that blockbuster between Aston Villa and Burnley, were all deemed fit for broadcasting ahead of this.

City against Liverpool should have been a contest that crackled with excitement, a collision when an established Champions League side had their credentials for fourth spot sternly examined by an up-and-coming ensemble.

With more than £250m of talent on the pitch, surely it was not beyond reason to expect someone, somewhere to conjure up a magic moment that would quicken the pulse and fire a message of intent in the battle for fourth place?

Apparently so. Having sat through what amounted to 96 minutes of utter boredom, both sets of supporters came away from the City of Manchester Stadium wondering what all the fuss was about after a game that provided more questions than answers.

Taking a point may have handed Roberto Mancini’s side advantage in the race for that final Champions League spot – they are level on points with Tottenham with a game in hand – but it will be a miracle if, come May 9, they end the campaign there.

Laboured, lacking any kind of attacking verve and struggling to deal with the weight of expectation on their shoulders, City did absolutely nothing to convince they are ready to start rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite.

The problem, however, for Liverpudlians today is that neither did their team. As he headed for home last night, Rafa Benitez was visibly frustrated, as were the majority of his players, that two more points had been frittered away.

City were there to be torn apart.

Reports yesterday morning of problems in the dressing room appeared spot on, as the 11 men playing in laser blue failed to show any kind of spirit.

A team playing with elan would have had little difficulty ransacking their home, as the suspicion from the first whistle was that their tetchy home crowd – all groans, mumbles and howls of derision – was ready to turn at the first sign of trouble.

Liverpool, though, were desperate. Unable to string any kind of slick, stylish passing moves together, short of pace on the flanks and lacking speed of thought, they were pedestrian when circumstances demanded they be positive.

That Shay Given only had one save to make either side of half-time – and that a routine one from Steven Gerrard – tells you everything you need to know about what Liverpool were like as an attacking force.

Such a frustration. The longer the Reds continue to be so ham-fisted in the final third of the pitch, the more they pass the ball backwards and sideways or – worse still, keep finding the opposition – the harder it will be for them to reach their main objective.

After making a bright start, when they gave cause for optimism that this would be a first happy away day since December 29, they never moved forward at all; whenever they got within an ace of City’s 18-yard box, inevitably their world would cave in.

Attempts at adroit flicks went out of play, subtle through balls clattered into the legs of defenders and, worst of all, the ‘Hollywood passes’ – those raking, cross field change of plays – ended up in the stands.

Gerrard, in fairness, did his best to inspire some kind of change in pace but, unfortunately, the two balls of supreme quality he produced in the game just failed to come off.

First, a precise corner from the right seemed destined for Daniel Agger’s head but, much to City’s relief, Joleon Lescott managed to get the faintest of touches to divert it away from the Danish defender.

More vexing was the ball Gerrard squirted through to Agger’s defensive cohort Martin Skrtel just before half-time; unmarked six yards from goal, the Slovakian could not make Given work with what was ultimately a free-header.

While he failed to win the game for Liverpool, Skrtel did at least save the game for them; when Emmanuel Adebayor skipped clear with 80 minutes on the clock, a deep sense of foreboding gripped every watching Red.

Thankfully, Skrtel kept his poise, stretched out a leg and spirited the ball away from Adebayor, just as he was about to shoot; it was a moment of real quality and so pleasing to see.

Since he suffered knee ligament damage on this ground in October 2008, when Liverpool came from behind in spectacular fashion, Skrtel has often looked a pale shadow of the player that arrived from Zenit St Petersburg.

Shaky, indecisive and seemingly short of confidence, some of his play has left certain observers covering their eyes, fearing an impending calamity – think about his performance at Anfield against the same opposition last November.

Yet here he was much more like the Skrtel Benitez paid a then club record fee for a defender two years ago; he had no margin for error when Adebayor turned on his heels but his tackle was, in a word, impeccable.

Sadly, that word is not one you would use to describe anything else associated with the afternoon and, to make matters worse, Liverpool will face an FA fine after six of their players had their names taken by referee Peter Walton.

This was not a game full of malice or spite, so the number of cautions came as a surprise; saying that, they can consider themselves fortunate that a red card wasn’t shown when Javier Mascherano had an ugly coming together with Gareth Barry.

Walton, mirroring the teams he was officiating, had an erratic afternoon and he could easily have awarded Liverpool a penalty in injury time, particularly if substitute Yossi Benayoun had gone to ground when he tangled with Vincent Kompany.

But, in truth, Liverpool did not do enough to win the match – and if they are going to come out on top in the four way battle for fourth spot, that has to change. Fast.

Benitez keeps believing

By James Riach - Sky Sports

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez still believes his side will be in the top four of the Premier League at the end of the season.

The Reds played out a dour 0-0 draw against fellow UEFA Champions League hopefuls Manchester City at Eastlands and they remain one point behind the Blues.

Neither side deserved to win the game but Benitez, who promised to lead the club to fourth spot earlier in the campaign, insists his side will kick on and secure the much-coveted position in the table.

He told Sky Sports: "I have to believe. If the manager doesn't have confidence it is difficult for the players.

"I think we have enough quality, Yossi (Benayoun) is coming back, (Fernando) Torres is coming back, hopefully (Glen) Johnson will come back in the next week.

"So we are now bringing players back and the competition will be better for us and hopefully we can improve."

The match at the City of Manchester Stadium was not one for the purists. Both teams defended stoutly but were unable to create many scoring opportunities, although Benitez claimed his side could have had a penalty late on were it not for Yossi Benayoun staying on his feet in the box.

"I think that both teams were working hard in defence, trying to beat the other in attack and we couldn't," he added.

"I think they are a good team, they had good players before, they have good players now, I think we knew it would be difficult and we know that it will be a long race so we have to keep going.

"I think at the end we were more in control, passing the ball with (Alberto) Aquilani, I think we had plenty of possession.

"They could be a threat on the counter-attack but we had more control and also the situation with Yossi maybe with the penalty, so I think we were close at the end to winning the game.

"He told me that he thought it was a penalty. In the end it is good to see a player trying to not take advantage of this but today it was bad! You have to understand his decision."

Fernando Torres came off the bench to mark his return from injury in the second-half but he may not be fit enough to start against Unirea Urziceni on Thursday night.

Benitez added: "We will see how he trains during the week. We have a game in the Europa League on Thursday so we have to decide but I think he still needs to keep working with the fitness coach."

Regarding opposite number Roberto Mancini's progress since taking the reins at City, Benitez remarked: "I think that they had a good team before and they have a good team now.

"Sometimes you try to change things and do it your way and he will need time, but I think he is doing well."

City and Reds serve up stalemate


The eagerly-awaited Premier League top-four showdown at Eastlands on Sunday turned into a dull 0-0 draw between Manchester City and Liverpool.

Gripped by the fear of losing, the North-West rivals did not manage a shot on target during the first half and only threw off their shackles in a half-hearted search for victory in the final 15 minutes.

But even the introductions of Craig Bellamy and Fernando Torres failed to lift the game from its overall torpor.

Pepe Reina's smart save to deny Emmanuel Adebayor represented the biggest thrill of a pitiful afternoon that convinced no-one of either club's worthiness to sit at Europe's top table, and proved how shrewd Sky and ESPN were not to bother screening it live.

When the teams were announced, it confirmed a tale of two substitutes. The sad thing was, when an opening period containing exactly zero shots on target ended, the respective benches were still the biggest talking points.

Torres was relatively straightforward.

A knee operation that was supposed to rule him out until March had eased sufficiently for Rafael Benitez to put him on the bench, if only for use in emergency.

Predictably, the issues surrounding Bellamy are less clear-cut.

It has now been established beyond question the Welshman's own dodgy knees can no longer stand up to the exhaustive nature of a Premier League season.

Also taken for granted is Bellamy's combustible nature.

According to Roberto Mancini, a midweek argument about the best way to treat the injury was nothing serious. Other reports tell a different story.

Bellamy's presence in Mancini's squad at least offered hope any souring of relations is repairable, although as a capacity crowd digested a truly awful opening period, the game itself was in desperate need of his involvement.

Given the scrap now taking place for that coveted fourth Champions League spot, a sense of trepidation could have been forgiven.

What was less easy to ignore was the woeful passing, the negativity and the limited vision. The sight of Steven Gerrard and Maxi Rodriguez running into each other on one Liverpool attack just about summed the whole thing up.

Gerrard was responsible for the visitors' best chance, sending over the corner that Martin Skrtel glanced wide at the far post after Shay Given had failed to come and collect.

At the other end, the only moment to enthuse about was a Pablo Zabaleta shot that would have gone wide had it not hit Emmanuel Adebayor. In such instances, anything can happen. This time, the trajectory of the ball barely altered.

Although it really could not have been worse, the first 15 minutes of the second-half was no better than what had gone before.

Benitez was already preparing to introduce Yossi Benayoun for his first appearance since breaking a rib in the same FA Cup defeat to Reading that marked the start of Torres' absence when Adebayor let rip from 20 yards.

Without question it posed the biggest threat to either goal, but Reina proved equal to it, plunging to his right to make an excellent one-handed save.

Benayoun's arrival followed shortly afterwards then, to a standing ovation, Bellamy was introduced.

One Gerrard shot and six minutes later, Torres returned to the fray.

Now, other than a bit of rustiness, there were no excuses for either side being so restricted in their approach.

Almost immediately there was a greater sense of purpose, as both sides began to recognise a victory rather than concentrate purely on the damage of defeat.

Skrtel managed to recover his ground just in time to rob Adebayor as the Togo man was about to shoot. From the corner, Adebayor headed Vincent Kompany's cross over.

Had referee Peter Walton seen an already booked Javier Mascherano drive his studs into Gareth Barry's ankle, Liverpool would have ended up playing the final few minutes with 10 men.

As it was, Mascherano remained on the field until the bitter end.

But the only lucky ones today were those who missed it altogether.

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Thor Zakariassen ©