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
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
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
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
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
When asked whether he saw anything from City that should
worry Liverpool over the remaining 11 games, he replied:
“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
“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.”
Too much at stake
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
But the only lucky ones today were those who missed it