Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, was involved in another war of words last night after his indignation about a two-footed challenge by Liverpool's Glen Johnson caused a heated tunnel exchange with Steven Gerrard.
The tackle by Johnson, on City's Joleon Lescott, came in the closing stages of Liverpool's 1-0 Carling Cup semi-final first leg win and did not result in a caution. This prompted an angry response from Mancini, who was also unhappy on Sunday about Manchester United's Wayne Rooney waving an imaginary red card before Vincent Kompany's dismissal in City's FA Cup derby defeat – for a two-footed challenge he does not consider as serious as Johnson's.
Gerrard then hit back: "I'm surprised at Mancini. He had a go at Wayne Rooney trying to get one of his players sent off at the weekend, and now he is trying to get one of our players into trouble – I don't think that's right," he said. "It was a clear winner of [a] tackle." Gerrard then appears to have challenged Mancini in the close confines of the players' tunnel, moments before the Italian appeared at his press conference. "Gerrard came to me and said, 'you said...,'" Mancini related. "But that's not important. Steven Gerrard can say what he wants, no problem. I said what I think. I'm used to being like this. It's not important – Steven Gerrard or other players. The world is coming down. There are people in every job that don't say sorry, I made a mistake and apologise. For this, the world is going down. This is my opinion."
Mancini, who apologised for waving an imaginary red card when Liverpool's Martin Skrtel fouled Yaya Touré in the Premier League game last week, did not expand on what the Liverpool captain had said. But Mancini seemed to have been pointing out inconsistent refereeing rather than attempting to get Johnson disciplined. He certainly had a point about the lack of consistency over two-footed challenges, which had been articulated thoughtfully earlier in the day by Kompany. The Italian's anger was compounded by City losing a second consecutive home game for the first time since 2008, having gone all of last year without losing at the Etihad Stadium.
City, who required three top-class saves from Joe Hart before Gerrard's 11th-minute penalty, lost Mario Balotelli after 39 minutes, with Liverpool clearly having rattled him. City said he had been removed with an ankle injury. "The first half we didn't play well," Mancini said. "After six months, that can happen. But in the second half Liverpool did not pass the middle of the pitch. We had chances but didn't score but we knew before the game it would be difficult. It is difficult because we were without three or four players. The result is not right. For me it was a draw."
Gerrard, integral to the win in only his second start since October, said: "We wanted to come here and keep a clean sheet and get a goal. It is good to be back. I feel like a footballer again. It's games like this I have missed and games like this I have worked to get back so hard for." Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager, said he "didn't see" the Johnson challenge, and reserved his wrath for the publication this week of a photograph which appeared to show Andy Carroll the worse for wear.
Kompany said on Facebook: "I wonder... if we are now going to see an unprecedented wave of red cards on match days because we sanction "ifs" and "maybes?"