Gerrard gives City mountain to climb

Manchester City 0 Liverpool 1

Etihad Stadium

Before Sunday, Manchester City had not lost at home in the space of a year. By last night they had lost twice there in the space of four days. The storm has not arrived at Roberto Mancini's door just yet but he can hear it rumbling in the distance.

Monday's trip to Wigan Athletic takes on an added dimension for a team that are out the FA Cup and now have 90 minutes to salvage this Carling Cup semi-final at Anfield in 13 days' time. The Premier League remains the priority, and Mancini's team still lead the way in that competition, but they could do with a decisive win at the DW stadium to steady the ship.

Without the injured David Silva and the suspended Vincent Kompany, this was not City's best performance but they had some legitimate cause for complaint. The reckless two-footed lunge that Glen Johnson launched at Joleon Lescott in the closing stages of the game looked very similar to that one which Kompany was dismissed for on Sunday against Manchester United and yet there was no action taken against the England full-back.

It precipitated a dispute in the tunnel after the game between Steven Gerrard and Mancini in which the Liverpool captain accused the Italian of trying to intervene to get Johnson dismissed. As for Kenny Dalglish, he stuck to the classic Arsène Wenger defence of not even having seen the challenge in which Johnson clearly went in two-footed but made no contact with his opponent.

The television cameras picked out Kompany through the drifting rain watching the game from his executive box in the stadium and certainly you had to wonder how different this might have been for City if their captain had not been serving the first game of a four-match ban. They suffered for the presence of Stefan Savic in the centre of defence and it was he who conceded the penalty that ultimately won the game.

City have lost four of their last eight games in all competitions. It is hardly a crisis just yet but they face Tottenham – who are now just three points behind them on 45 – at home a week on Sunday three days before the return leg at Anfield. Those are the kind of schedules that all teams with aspirations to be League champions are forced to confront at some point in the season.

As for Liverpool, they have their problems too. Johnson played as an emergency left-back last night and Jay Spearing succumbed to an injury early in the first half. Without the suspended Luis Suarez, Dalglish picked Andy Carroll as the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation and he struggled again.

After the match, Dalglish bristled, in the way only he can bristle, when asked about the possibility of Carroll moving back to Newcastle – a story that seems to be based more on the desire of his former club than anything Liverpool might countenance. "I worry about the people who invent those stories," he said. But there was no disguising another disappointing performance from the forward.

There were lots of other strong performers, including Gerrard, making his second start since the long lay-off with injury and infection. Pepe Reina was excellent once again in goal and although the back four rode their luck at times, this was the first time City have failed to score in a home game for 14 months.

Having parked the bus in the closing stages, Dalglish brought on Jamie Carragher on the 15th anniversary of his debut for the club, as a defensive midfielder. Liverpool were clinging on grimly at the end of the game but that goal will be precious at Anfield where the away-goal rule is only enforced after extra-time.

Liverpool scored in an early flurry of pressure which might have yielded more goals had it not been for the magnificent form of Joe Hart who stopped three Liverpool chances that a lesser goalkeeper would not have saved before he was beaten by Gerrard's penalty.

Within five minutes Hart had to go down low to stop Carroll when the Liverpool striker went through on goal. Within the next five minutes Gerrard had a shot pushed away by Hart and the best of all was a save to the goalkeeper's left from a deflected Stewart Downing shot.

Given his form, there was a nagging feeling that Hart might save Gerrard's penalty, too. It was conceded by Savic, who raked his studs down Daniel Agger's leg when he misjudged the ball in the area. Gerrard struck his penalty into the inside of the side-netting to Hart's right and it was too well-placed even though the City goalkeeper dived the right way.

It had been a strong, decisive start from Dalglish's team. The travelling support sang "We're not racist, we only hate Mancs," while City lacked direction in those early stages and had the added concern that Mario Balotelli was on the edge. He had been carrying an ankle injury but he also looked pretty angry, too.

The Italian had reacted to being patted on the head by substitute Charlie Adam as he lay prone following a foul from the Liverpool midfielder. On that occasion James Milner sprung to his feet to intervene. But with two minutes of the first half to play, Mancini replaced Balotelli with Samir Nasri and Balotelli went straight down the tunnel.

City rallied towards the end of the first half. Reina saved Nasri's shot from the left. Then Micah Richards went past Johnson and cut the ball back for Milner who missed. By the time Mancini brought Edin Dzeko on 21 minutes after the break they were firmly pushing back.

Reina did extremely well to shepherd Sergio Aguero away from danger when Martin Kelly's panicky pass back to his goalkeeper was intercepted by the Argentine. Richards met a corner first time and forced a good save from Reina at close range. Johnson was fortunate to escape without punishment for his tackle on Lescott but Liverpool had held out. And they will be hard to beat at Anfield.

Man of the match Reina.

Match rating 5/10.

Referee L Mason (Lancashire).

Attendance 36,017.

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all