After The Match 


Liverpool-Manchester C 2-2 (0-0)       21.11.09                   PL
Goals: Skrtel (50), Benayoun (77)        Adebayor (69), Ireland (76)
Team: Reina, Skrtel, Carragher, Agger, Insua, Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Gerrard, Babel, Ngog
Subs: Kyrgiakos (Agger 11), Benayoun (Babel 19),
Aurelio (Benayoun 85)
Not used: Cavalieri, Aquilani, El Zhar, Riera
Yellow: Carragher (17), Lucas (63)
Red: None
Referee: P Dowd
Attendance: 44,164
Shots on target: 4-4
Shots off target: 4-3
Blocked shots: 9-2
Fouls conceded: 10-13
Corners: 7-3
Offsides: 1-4
Possession: 57.2-42.8
Yellow: 2-0

HEADLINES "Until the last minute we were still pushing."
Rafael Benitez
2311: Neither Liverpool FC or Man City
          pressed claims for top four finish

2311: Hansen: I still fancy
          Benitez's side to finish fourth

2311: Horse power not enough as Liverpool FC’s
          season stalls again in Anfield draw

2211: Hughes frustrated with Anfield draw
2211: Skrtel reflects on bittersweet day
2111: Rafa happy with character
2111: Ireland: City feel robbed by Reds
2111: Benayoun rescues Reds   

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 sheet.

It wasn’t on show at Anfield on Saturday. Maybe it should have been.

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 changed.

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 world.

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 struggling.

On Saturday’s evidence, it won’t be City. Not this season anyway.

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 four.

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 defenders.

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 another defeat.

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 replaced.

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 year.

With Adebayor, Bellamy, Tevez and Santa Cruz on the teamsheet, City arrived at Anfield on Saturday with four in tow.

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 -

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 league.”

“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 Birmingham City.

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 below par.

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 goal.

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 billionaire owners.

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

Hughes 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 Liverpool's equaliser.

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 the lead.

"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 draw.

"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."

Skrtel reflects 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 "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 of this.

"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 stalemate.

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 to win.

"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."

Rafa happy with character

Sky Sports

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez praised his side's character after they fought back for a 2-2 draw with Manchester City.

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 minutes.

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 to Hungary.

"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 Benitez.

"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 back."

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."

Ireland: City 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 Sports 1.

"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 come back.

"We deserved to win but that's football, we just have to keep our focus and keep enjoying ourselves on the pitch."

Benayoun rescues Reds

Sky Sports

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 Bellamy's corner.

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 line.

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 the ammunition.

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.

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