Liverpool show signs of promise but allow Tevez to rescue off-colour City
Liverpool 2 Manchester City 2: Rodgers can take heart from positive display though champions are gifted both their goals
Brendan Rodgers will be only too aware that, two games into the season, his Liverpool team still lack the kind of result that announces to the world that the club are capable of making some impact this season. As for their performance yesterday, it was certainly the first tentative step along the road to putting in practice the deeply-held values Rodgers espoused when he first took over.
The Liverpool manager met his players one-by-one as they came off the pitch, from 17-year-old Raheem Sterling wearing the Carlos Tevez shirt he had exchanged with the Argentine to Steven Gerrard who has witnessed more than one false dawn at Anfield. The mood projected by Rodgers was one of pride and contentment even if his team had twice thrown away a lead against the Premier League champions.
Liverpool should have won this game and there will surely be very few occasions when City are as unconvincing, especially in attack, as they were at Anfield. Fortunately for Roberto Mancini's team they were gifted two goals by dreadful defensive errors from first Martin Kelly and then by Martin Skrtel whose preposterous back-pass into the feet of Tevez (right) for the second City equaliser was a dereliction of duty.
Those two moments aside, however, this was a performance that gives some cause for optimism, although no-one at Liverpool is under any illusions about how long and hard the road will be. For the 14 minutes during which they led 2-1 after Luis Suarez's second-half goal this was shaping up to be a momentous result for the home team; as it was the final whistle was greeted with appreciation and a familiar sense of resignation.
In midfield, Joe Allen made sure the play ticked over nicely and Gerrard and Suarez demonstrated that once again they will be vital to Liverpool's season. Sterling, who won his place with that impressive performance against Heart of Midlothian last week in the Europa League qualifier, flitted in and out the game, as you would expect of one so young, but did more than enough to justify his inclusion.
As for City, this was nothing like the formidable side that came from behind to beat Chelsea in the Community Shield and then Southampton on the previous weekend but nevertheless they still had enough about them to escape with a point. This is what, we are constantly told, champions are supposed to do; but champions are also obliged to play better than City did for much of the game.
Mancini started with three in defence as he did against Chelsea two weeks earlier, and later was forced to switch back to an orthodox four. He changed in the second half to push Yaya Touré further forward and was immediately rewarded with a goal from the midfielder. He got a tirade of abuse back from James Milner, of all people, in one touchline exchange. All told, not City's best day.
Up in the directors' box was City's executive Brian Marwood, the man who, one gets the impression, the City manager would cheerfully throttle at the moment. The failure to land the big names available this summer, like Robin van Persie and Eden Hazard, might have stolen some of the momentum from City over the break but Mancini is hardly short of options.
He brought Kolo Touré into the side at the expense of Joleon Lescott who was also joined on the bench by, among others, Jack Rodwell, Edin Dzeko and David Silva, all three of whom came into the game later on. Having equalised through Tevez, who finished beautifully when gifted the ball by Skrtel, it was still City hanging on at the end and relying upon Vincent Kompany to head away Andy Carroll's goalbound attempt.
Without the suspended Daniel Agger, Rodgers opted for Sebastian Coates ahead of Jamie Carragher, a decision that will no doubt have deeply frustrated the latter. In midfield the Liverpool manager was forced to replace Lucas Leiva after five minutes when the player complained of a thigh problem. With Jonjo Shelvey on in his place, that immediately reduced Rodgers' capacity to make changes. His team responded well.
It is not hard to see why Carroll, who played only the last seven minutes yesterday, does not fit into the Rodgers master-plan. The forward three of Suarez, Sterling and Fabio Borini run hard to close down defenders and interchange quickly. In fact, Borini might have pinched a goal with a nicely-timed near-post run on 18 minutes to meet Sterling's cross from the left.
The best of City's forwards, Tevez, took the ball wide of Pepe Reina on 19 minutes and shot from close to the goal-line outside the right post. It brushed the goalkeeper's glove which took it against the post but at fractionally the wrong angle to bounce in. Other than a shot from the ineffective Mario Balotelli, which landed in the second tier of the Anfield Road end, City looked laboured.
Liverpool, on the other hand, got their act together quickly. Kompany only just directed Gerrard's cross over from the bar on 33 minutes and from the resultant corner, Skrtel scattered Aleksandar Kolarov and Pablo Zabaleta on his was to heading the ball, hard, past Joe Hart.
By the time the game reached the hour point, Liverpool were well in control. Samir Nasri, another below-par performer, was replaced with Rodwell and then just when they needed to stay tight, Liverpool conceded. Tevez got past Sterling on the right, Reina punched and then Kelly made a hash of controlling the ball, presenting it to Yaya Touré to score.
Parity lasted just three minutes, until Rodwell conceded a dubious free-kick that struck his knee then his hand. Suarez curved the ball around the end of the wall on which the England man was standing and just inside Hart's left post before the goalkeeper could get down in time to save it.
From there the game should have been won but Skrtel's back-pass to Tevez needlessly put Liverpool under pressure and the striker did very well to sidestep Reina and score. It says something about Liverpool's performance that they could be disappointed only to take a point against such a good team but it is a point and something to be positive about and in these delicate early days, Rodgers will surely settle for that.
Man of match: Allen
Match rating: 7/10.
Possession: Liverpool 51%. Man City 49%
Attempts on target: Liverpool: 8 Manchester City: 5
Referee: A Marriner (W Midlands).
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