Neither Liverpool FC or Man City
pressed claims for top four finish
Comment by David Randles - Liverpool Echo
Manchester City fans have created a banner
that lends a line from a song penned by one of their own,
Noel Gallagher. ‘Some might say we will find a brighter day’
is the message of hope emblazoned across the giant cloth
It wasn’t on show at Anfield on Saturday. Maybe it should
On a dour, damp November afternoon there was little bright
about this particular day.
With both Rafael Benitez and Mark Hughes reflecting on the
2-2 draw as two points dropped, neither team pressed their
claims for a top four finish.
As is often the case with these occasions, reality failed to
live up to the hype. Four second half goals rescued the
highlights package but, by the end, nothing had really
While City had started the season with the self-assured
swagger of Noel’s younger sibling, Liam, six consecutive
draws has left us pondering whether they will have similar
impact on the established Premier League order as the lesser
known eldest Gallagher brother, Paul, has had on the music
By the same token, just one win and three defeats in the
league during the same period means Liverpool are still in
danger of becoming a support act to the main event.
Of course, injuries have had a devastating impact on the
Reds’ campaign thus far. But should Liverpool’s hopes not
recover in line with those in the treatment room, which club
is ready to step up and join the assumed elite?
With perennial under-achievers, Tottenham and Aston Villa
likely to fade at some stage, Everton with their own injury
problems, and the rest just happy to be here, you’re
On Saturday’s evidence, it won’t be City. Not this season
And that could be Liverpool’s saving grace once Benitez
finally has a full strength squad to work with.
Of City’s notable players, only Robinho was missing at the
weekend. Yet, despite their significant summer outlay, they
were devoid of ideas for much of this encounter. It was only
when Liverpool’s static defence gifted Emmanuel Adebayor and
then Stephen Ireland a couple of goals that the visitors
looked like pulling off an unwarranted victory.
With their filthy rich Abu-Dhabi owners pledging to spend a
staggering £1 billion over the next 10 years to reach their
ultimate goal of Premier and Champions League domination, it
may be just a matter of time until all of this changes.
In the meantime, their American counterparts at this end of
the East Lancs Road must do all they can to back a manager
who faces the increasingly thankless task of maintaining
Liverpool’s top four status.
While City, Tottenham and one or two others have got
stronger this season, Liverpool haven’t.
Benitez will tell us publicly it’s not all about money.
Privately, he knows it helps.
The defence was again culpable against City but can only be
judged once he has the luxury of picking a settled back
However, without Fernando Torres again, the Reds looked
short of ideas in attack.
True, they created more than City but not enough to put the
game to bed.
It is unfair to lay the blame at David Ngog’s door.
While Andriy Voronin is clearly not the answer, and Dirk
Kuyt has proven more effective in a wide role, the
20-year-old has been thrown in at the deep end this season,
coping well in recent outings against much more seasoned
It was his cross that led to Yossi Benayoun’s equaliser
against City, following his goal and penalty award against
Birmingham. Controversial or not, it spared the blushes of
But the fact a youngster who is still learning his trade has
been charged with leading the line at a club that started
the season with title hopes only highlights the lack of
options in attack.
As Liverpool’s injury curse struck again on Saturday,
Benitez was forced to withdraw Daniel Agger, Ryan Babel and
then Benayoun. Had Ngog pulled up at any point – he broke
his nose playing for France U21s last week – there wasn’t a
recognised striker on the bench with whom he could have been
Some will point to the sales of Peter Crouch and Craig
Bellamy in recent years. However, both requested moves when
regular football couldn’t be guaranteed. In the modern era,
where player-power rules, it is futile to keep someone
against his will. Ask Xabi Alonso.
Still, if you want to progress, they have to be replaced
once they’ve gone.
As the £17million re-couped on Robbie Keane was used to
service the club’s debt, that is yet to happen and – Voronin
aside – Liverpool are a striker down from this time last
With Adebayor, Bellamy, Tevez and Santa Cruz on the
teamsheet, City arrived at Anfield on Saturday with four in
Ahead of the draw, Steven Gerrard said Liverpool have to be
more clinical when opportunities come their way.
Investment in the right areas will increase the probability
of that happening.
Hansen: I still fancy
Benitez's side to finish fourth
By Ben Moss - Sport.co.uk
Alan Hansen believes Liverpool are still
favourites to finish inside the Premier League’s top four
this season, despite their woeful stat to the season.
The former Anfield stalwart acknowledges his old club are in
a desperate battle with Manchester City, Aston Villa and
Tottenham for that coveted Champions League position however
he believes Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres give Rafa
Benitez’s side the edge.
While praising the brilliant job Steve Bruce is doing at
Sunderland, Hansen claims Liverpool’s Champions League
adventure and title ambition is over for this season and
therefore fourth place must be their only aim.
Hansen told the Telegraph: “They (Manchester City) are one
of four clubs, along with Liverpool, Aston Villa and Spurs,
who I believe are fighting over the fourth spot.”
“Sunderland have been magnificent under Steve Bruce, but
they won’t challenge for fourth.”
“Despite Tottenham Hotspur’s incredible victory against
Wigan and the fact Liverpool have won just one of their last
10 games in all competitions, I still fancy Benítez’s side
to finish fourth.”
“Their sole objective now is to ensure that they are playing
Champions League football next season and, although they
still have a slim chance of qualifying from the group
stages, I don’t see that miracle happening.”
“Liverpool just have to focus on getting it right in the
“It’s only November, but the league appears their only
realistic route back into the Champions League.”
“They have some difficult fixtures on the horizon, with away
games against Everton and Blackburn next up, followed by a
home game against Arsenal. More season-defining games.”
“Liverpool have been having them since October, but the one
thing they have in their favour is that they have two big,
big players in Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.”
“If they can keep them fit and playing, Liverpool have the
edge over the rest in the race for fourth place.”
Horse power not enough as Liverpool FC’s season stalls again
in Anfield draw
Comment by Ian Doyle - Liverpool Daily Post
It will clearly take more than cream made
from horse placenta and a special wave machine to
rehabilitate Liverpool’s ailing season.
Radical Belgrade specialist Mariana Kovacevic assumed
prominence in the last week after being charged with the
task of helping rush a quartet of Rafael Benitez’s
injury-ravaged squad back into action.
But such revolutionary procedures are not what the Anfield
manager needs from his team at present.
Basic aspects such as defending properly and turning
concerted pressure into goalscoring chances would provide
the required shoots of recovery and help rescue a campaign
that continues to head dangerously towards the precipice.
Another afternoon of frustration and familiar failings on
Saturday did little to suggest the Anfield faithful should
do anything but brace themselves for a major struggle for
their team to clinch Champions League qualification.
Indeed, perhaps the greatest encouragement Liverpool could
take from the encounter is that moneybags Manchester City
did even less to bolster their claims for a top-four finish.
Kovacevic could at least claim her methods earned the home
side a point when Yossi Benayoun, coaxed back into action
despite suffering a hamstring tear less than a fortnight
earlier, netted an equaliser with 13 minutes remaining.
But that Liverpool found themselves scrapping to salvage a
draw highlighted the fault lines that continue to run
through the team.
While the results have remained disappointing in recent
weeks, Benitez rightly pointed to the much-improved
performances in the previous two outings against Lyon and
His argument was less convincing at the weekend. Sure, the
character was there to avoid defeat, but that’s not enough.
This was a flat Liverpool display, devoid of any spark,
creativity or imagination with too many players distinctly
The honourable exception was Javier Mascherano, an
effervescent performer in midfield as he revelled in his
battle with City’s equally excellent Nigel De Jong.
Mascherano provided tremendous drive from the centre of the
park and was often the most likely to find a route to goal.
That, however, is not the Argentine’s forte and served to
underline the lack of imagination from midfield, Steven
Gerrard understandably struggling to impose himself on his
first Premier League start in seven weeks.
David Ngog again showed promise in attack, but a lack of
service meant he was too often left to fend for himself
against City’s defence.
And with Fernando Torres again sidelined for tomorrow’s
crucial Champions League clash against Debrecen in Hungary
and a real doubt for Sunday’s Goodison derby, it’s a
shortcoming Benitez must address quickly.
Was there call for Alberto Aquilani to be thrown on during
the second half? Certainly, and a game Benitez had described
as “make or break” was surely one that at some point
required the services of his £20million summer signing no
matter what his level of match sharpness.
But in fairness, the manager’s hand with substitutions had
been forced somewhat with the early exit through injury of
both Daniel Agger and Ryan Babel.
Agger left on a stretcher after just 11 minutes when coming
off worse in a sickening clash of heads with Kolo Toure.
Babel followed his team-mate down the tunnel eight minutes
later after accidentally colliding with Gerrard, although
the manner in which the Dutchman feebly attempted to play on
would not have allayed the nagging doubt he lacks the heart
and fight to nail down a first-team place.
Despite the injuries, Liverpool had the better of a
depressingly low-quality first half, their best chance
coming in the fifth minute when Martin Skrtel’s header
solicited an excellent save from Shay Given.
But the City goalkeeper could do nothing five minutes after
the interval when, after Pablo Zabaleta had held Ngog,
Gerrard whipped in an excellent free-kick from the left that
Skrtel reached ahead of Emmanuel Adebayor to prod home his
first-ever Liverpool goal.
It was a deserved, hard-earned lead.
Yet Liverpool made the fatal mistake of then inviting
pressure from City who twice exploited this recurring
defensive nightmare that shows no signs of abating.
Yes, Benitez’s game-plan was disrupted by Glen Johnson
withdrawing shortly before kick-off and the subsequent
departure of Agger.
But questions will once again be asked of the Spaniard’s
persistence with zonal marking and a failing to put players
on the posts after Skrtel afforded Adebayor the freedom of
the penalty area to head Craig Bellamy’s corner beyond Pepe
Reina for a scarcely-merited 69th-minute equaliser.
More alarming, though, was the collective failure that
allowed City to forge ahead seven minutes later.
Under minimal pressure from the Liverpool defence,
substitute Carlos Tevez strolled infield off and fed Shaun
Wright-Phillips, who turned Sotirios Kyrgiakos too easily
and crossed for the unmarked Stephen Ireland to slot home
from eight yards with Lucas Leiva and Emiliano Insua both
dawdling to reach the City man as he jogged into the penalty
area. Too easy. And that is Liverpool’s problem right now;
they simply do not make the opposition do enough to earn a
Thankfully, City have a similarly soft centre and just 72
seconds later, their failure to clear gave Ngog the chance
to fire a cross-shot that deflected into the path of
Benayoun, the patched-up Israeli reacting quicker than
Zabaleta to force the ball home.
It was a fifth goal of the season for Benayoun, who has by
some distance been Liverpool’s most consistently effective
outfield player of the campaign.
Despite parity, an injury-hampered Liverpool were
nevertheless there for the taking had City manager Mark
Hughes shown the same level of ambition as his club’s
But the visitors’ curious hesitancy meant Benitez’s side
finished the stronger, and should really have claimed all
three points in stoppage time.
Lucas failed to connect properly with a free header from
Gerrard’s right-wing corner.
Instead, it’s now just one win in 10 for Liverpool. And such
is there predicament, even a badly-needed victory in
Budapest tomorrow may not be enough to rescue their
Champions League hopes
frustrated with Anfield draw
Mark Hughes insisted his Manchester City
side felt a deep frustration that they were not able to hang
on to a winning position at Liverpool.
The Premier League's latest pretenders to a top four
position had to settle for a 2-2 draw at Anfield, having
forced their way back into the match and taken the lead.
Martin Skrtel had given Liverpool the lead, only for
Emmanuel Adebayor and Stephen Ireland to put City ahead. But
within seconds of Ireland's goal, Yossi Benayoun grabbed
City boss Hughes felt his side deserved more and said: "We
restricted Liverpool to a very few opportunities but the
ones they did have, they scored from.
"But we restricted their influential players from having an
impact on the game. We were good on the break and carried a
real threat in the second period when Carlos Tevez came on.
"We had to chase the game, and Carlos gave us a real energy.
We retained possession and got back from one-down to take
"We had another winning position and let it slip. We were
caught straight after we had scored and had several chances
to clear the ball before Benayoun put it away.
"My players are disappointed, they had an opportunity to
win. Scoring twice and getting a point at Anfield is
something you would normally be happy with.
"Maybe we will be come the end of the season, but at the
moment it feels like a chance missed."
He added: "Liverpool will be happy with a point, on the day
they were not the better team so they should be happy with a
"If you do not make too much of a positive impact on the
game you feel happy with a point. I felt we merited more,
given our second-half performance.
"But there are signs of quality, and it is only time before
we start winning games. Everybody can see that.
"It is a frustration to keep throwing away winning
positions, in general play we were the better team.
"But Liverpool still have threats. They have accomplished
players and a squad capable of handling injuries, so they
cannot be underestimated.
"We were waiting for the chance, but we did not want to go
gung-ho at Anfield too soon, that is when you get punished.
"We should have seen the game out once we were in front, but
we take confidence from the manner of our play and it is
only a matter of time before we start winning."
on bittersweet day
By James Carroll - LFC Official Website
Martin Skrtel admits the frustration of
being held to a 2-2 draw by Manchester City at Anfield
tempered the joy felt at scoring his debut goal for
Liverpool on Saturday.
The commanding centre-back put the Reds into a deserved 50th
minute lead against Mark Hughes' side when he edged in front
of Emmanuel Adebayor to prod Steven Gerrard's free-kick
beyond Shay Given.
It was Skrtel's first for Liverpool in 65 appearances, but
the final outcome of the contest ensured it was a
bittersweet afternoon for the Slovakian.
He told Liverpoolfc.tv: "I was very happy to score my first
goal for Liverpool. I have been waiting a long time for it,
so it was a good moment for me.
"I am in my third season here and hadn't managed to score
until today, but I hope this is the first of many more.
"But we are frustrated to have drawn again because we wanted
to win. We couldn't in the end, and we are not happy because
"There is nothing we can do about the result now and we have
to look forward to the next game and try to win."
After Skrtel had opened the scoring, Liverpool were left
stunned by City's quick-fire double as Adebayor and Stephen
Ireland put the visitors into the lead before Yossi Benayoun
salvaged a point for the Reds.
"I think we played well as a team and had a lot of
possession in the first half," added Skrtel.
"After we scored our first goal, we tried to sit back and
play on the counter-attack, but we conceded two goals
quickly and couldn't believe it."
With Liverpool now set to travel to Budapest for the crucial
Champions League encounter with Debrecen on Tuesday evening,
Skrtel insists the Reds cannot afford to dwell on their City
The 24-year-old said: "We now have a big game coming up on
Tuesday, and as I said, we have to forget about today and
start thinking about Debrecen because it is a game we have
"I am looking forward to the game and if I am selected I
will give my all to try and help us get a good result."
happy with character
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez praised his
side's character after they fought back for a 2-2 draw with
Yossi Benayoun's goal earned Liverpool a draw after goals
from Emmanuel Adebayor and Stephen Ireland cancelled out
Martin Skrtel's opener for the home side.
The draw means Liverpool have only won once in their last
ten games in all competitions, but Benitez was happy with
the attitude of his players.
"We're a little bit disappointed, we had chances at the end.
But with the problems we had, making two substitutions in
the first 18 minutes, to still come back we showed very good
character. Until the last minute we were still pushing,"
Benitez told Sky Sports 1.
"The players worked so hard. You could see that even with a
lot of problems we were winning and even though we conceded
the first goal then the second, you could still see the
character of the team.
"In the circumstances I thought we were very good."
Benitez saw his injury problems increase after Daniel Agger
and Ryan Babel were forced off with knocks in the opening 20
Agger sustained a deep cut after a clash of heads, while
Dutchman Babel limped off with an ankle injury.
Benitez is unsure if the duo will be fit for Liverpool's
vital UEFA Champions League clash with Debrecen next week,
but is hopeful Albert Riera, who was an unused substitute
against City and Glen Johnson will be available for the trip
"Agger has five stitches and Babel has a problem with his
ankle, but it's too early to say and we have to wait," noted
"I think it was important for Yossi Benayoun to come through
today. On the bench was Albert Riera and hopefully (Glen)
Johnson (will return). Maybe we'll have some more coming
Despite dropping more points Benitez is confident his side
can end their slump in form once all their players are back
to full fitness.
"With some players available and fit we are much better,"
said Benitez. "We are still bringing players back from
injury. Gerrard was tired, (David) Ngog was tired and we had
to make two substitutes early on."
feel robbed by Reds
Manchester City goalscorer Stephen Ireland
admitted his side felt they had been "robbed" after
Liverpool snatched a 2-2 draw at Anfield.
Liverpool took the lead when Martin Skrtel headed home
Steven Gerrard's free-kick early in the second-half.
However Emmanuel Adebayor's header and Stephen Ireland's
clever close-range flick put City ahead before Yossi
Benayoun forced home the equaliser.
"Looking back at the end of the season we'll probably see it
as a good point but we feel a bit robbed," Ireland told Sky
"We played well, we went ahead but conceded too early. It
was very unfortunate but it could have been worse."
As for City's recent habit of drawing too many games,
Ireland added: "It's unfortunate we've drawn those games but
I think last year we were losing them, so I think it is a
positive and it's onwards and upwards or us now."
Fellow goalscorer Adebayor said: "Today we played quite well
and were in a good position but we gave them a chance to
"We deserved to win but that's football, we just have to
keep our focus and keep enjoying ourselves on the pitch."
Liverpool dropped two more points and fell
further behind in the title race after being held to a 2-2
draw by Manchester City at Anfield.
After a dour first half the game burst into life five
minutes into the second half when Martin Skrtel broke the
deadlock with his first goal for the club.
Emmanuel Adebayor headed Manchester City level on 69 minutes
when he was left unmarked inside the box to head home Craig
City turned the game on its head on 76 minutes when Stephen
Ireland converted Shaun-Wright Phillips' cross to silence
the home fans.
However, Liverpool struck back a minute later when Yossi
Benayoun scored from close-range after David Ngog's shot was
deflected across the face of goal.
The draw means Liverpool have only won one of their last ten
games in all competitions, while for City it was their sixth
successive stalemate in the Premier League.
Liverpool had Steven Gerrard, Ryan Babel and Jamie
Carragher, the latter after a ban, returning from the side
that drew with Birmingham last time out.
Manchester City made one change from the side that were held
at home by Burnley last time out, Nigel De Jong coming into
the side in place of Carlos Tevez, who was a substitute.
Liverpool started well, Gerrard attacking the right flank of
City's defence when the opportunity arose.
The first chance came after five minutes from a free-kick
following a Gareth Barry foul on Dirk Kuyt.
Gerrard swung the set-piece in from the right, Daniel Agger
flicked on and centre-back partner Skrtel saw a free header
from the left brilliantly saved by Shay Given.
Agger, though, was injured in the incident after clashing
heads with Kolo Toure. The young Dane's legs buckled under
him as he was receiving treatment and he was carried off
suffering from concussion.
Greek defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos was soon on as substitute,
a reshuffle Liverpool did not need against the pace of
Emmanuel Adebayor, with Craig Bellamy itching to run at
Carragher on the left.
Soon Liverpool suffered more injury trouble. Babel was hurt
in a collision with De Jong, and needed treatment on the
Babel lasted only a couple of minutes more after his limping
return and was replaced by Benayoun.
City were intent on containment and eventual control. De
Jong effectively regained midfield possession to set in
motion City's calm, thoughtful approach play.
Toure, suffering following an earlier tackle with Gerrard,
was replaced at the break by Nedum Onuoha.
And Liverpool produced the lift the game needed with a goal
after 49 minutes. Pablo Zabaleta had given away a needless
free-kick for holding Ngog on the left, and when Gerrard
swung the set-play into the box, Skrtel was there first in
front of Adebayor to stab home from six yards.
City needed to up their game now, and with the fire-power of
Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz on the bench, they certainly had
And they waited until the hour mark to withdraw Barry and
send on Tevez, who instantly drew a booking for Lucas
following a tangle on the half-way line.
City cranked up the pressure as Liverpool fell deeper, and
they were level after 69 minutes. Bellamy's corner swirled
into the box and it was Adebayor's turn to lose Skrtel this
time, heading the ball down into the turf from where it
bounced high into the top corner.
City struck again after 76 minutes when Tevez and
Wright-Phillips worked well to create a chance for Stephen
Ireland to flick the ball past Reina.
Liverpool's response came within 60 seconds. Ngog crossed
from the right, the ball deflecting to Benayoun who forced
it home from a couple of yards out.