Lescott (og) 33 – Kompany 31
Balotelli sent off 83
Liverpool and Manchester City produced a thrilling clash to lift the spirits after the devastating news of the death of Welsh international boss Gary Speed. With a sombre pre-match atmosphere, the two sides put on a display of the blood and thunder football which makes the Premier League the most popular in the world.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish withdrew Craig Bellamy from his squad, with the Welsh international striker reportedly devastated by the death of his close friend. The Reds lined up in a nominal 4-4-2, which reverted to a 4-5-1 whenever City were in possession. Dirk Kuyt was given the responsibility of dropping to fill in on the right hand side, with Jordan Henderson moving across to make a central three with Charlie Adam and Lucas. Stewart Downing was allowed to float down both flanks when attacking. Luis Suarez was the main thrust of the Liverpool attack.
Manchester City were looking to bounce back from the disappointment of their midweek European defeat, but had already been buoyed by crosstown rivals United being held at home by Newcastle the previous day, offering the Sky Blues a chance to move seven points clear at the top. Micah Richards and Gael Clichy returned in the full back positions. James Milner, Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure filled in the midfield area with David Siva and Samir Nasri supporting Sergio Aguerro.
Liverpool initially seemed happy to sit back and soak up the pressure which City applied, looking to hit their visitors on the counter-attack. The match moved from end to end, with City dominating possession, without either side creating a clear cut chance. That all changed in a crazy three minutes around the half-hour mark.
Manchester City took the lead on 31 minutes. David Silva’s whipped in corner from the right was met by Kompany at the near post, the City skipper’s attempt at a glancing header coming off his shoulder but it still flashed across the goal and into the net at the far post.
Liverpool though hit back immediately, with the fortune on the Reds side this time as Charlie Adam’s speculative 30 yard effort was diverted into his own net by a stumbling Joleon Lescott, the deflection totally wrong footing Joe Hart.
The 2nd half saw the pace and intensity increase, with the roles reversing as Liverpool pushed firmly on to the front foot, with City happy to hit on the brake. However with neither side featuring a target man, both sides were relying on the killer ball to break down their opponent, only to be thwarted by resolute defending.
A brief cameo by Mario Ballotelli saw him revert to the bad-boy of the past, picking up two yellow cards leaving Martin Atkinson no option but to send the Italian off with seven minutes remaining. Liverpool then introduced Andy Carroll and immediately began to create clear cut opportunities. They were unfortunate to meet a goalkeeper in fine form, with Hart’s superb save to deny Carroll in the final minute preserving City’s valuable point.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Henderson, Lucas, Adam, Downing; Kuyt (Carroll 84), Suarez
Manchester United (4-3-3): Hart; Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; Milner, Yaya Toure, Barry; Silva, Nasri, Aguero
Did you know…Andy Carroll has only scored in one game at Anfield, against City in last season’s 3-0 victory.