Liverpool struggle to locate X Factor

Liverpool 2 Manchester City 2

There is only one Manchester rival for Liverpool, as the latest edition of
The Kop magazine makes all too clear. The faces of the Neville brothers are imposed on a picture of the Jedward twins beneath a back page headline: "Annoying brothers achieve success despite apparent lack of talent (and good looks)." The Kop found it hard to find much annoyance in the city's other team on Saturday, despite all their spending and pretensions. £200m and not a lot of X factor, you might say.

The United rivalry has been built on that Mancunian ability to discern and exploit weakness and vulnerability; to make you worry for the kind of cobbled defence, callow front line and less-than-fit Steven Gerrard, which Liverpool deployed, and make a kill. But City had no killer. Gareth Barry, who took the Arab dirham and turned his back on Anfield, was not subjected to any of the anticipated derision because he barely seemed to be there. He should have been thumping into challenges and reminding his friend Gerrard why he so badly wanted him at Anfield. Instead, by taking up a series of curiously advanced positions behind Emmanuel Adebayor, he gave pockets of midfield space to Javier Mascherano. The kindest interpretation is that Barry, struggling with the calf problem he brought back from England's trip to Doha to meet Brazil, needs rest.

There were flashes of the exuberance expected of City as the game wore on; Shaun Wright-Phillips whipping exquisitely around the leaden Sotirios Kyrgiakos to thread the pass which Stephen Ireland diverted in to put City ahead. That the lead lasted for 27 seconds summed up City's self-belief. "The game-plan was to restrict the influence of their midfield and their full-backs from getting in higher positions and I felt it worked really well," manager Mark Hughes explained. Odd, that. When Glen Johnson's calf played up on Saturday morning, the "wing-backs" turned out to be Jamie Carragher and 20-year-old Emiliano Insua – hardly a hurricane down the touchlines.

It meant that the season's most unenterprising 2-2 draw turned on four moments of defensive deficiency, Liverpool's beleaguered zonal marking system allowing Emmanuel Adebayor to score by taking a half pace to his left and ducking in to a header. "When you're using a zonal marking system you have to attack the ball and if there's a player near you, you have to challenge," manager Rafael Benitez said. "It is clear you have to attack the space or the player. "

Mark Hughes speaks often of the "consecutive errors" in defence which have contributed to City's six successive draws and there were four more of them in the five seconds or so it took Ngog to seize on Nedum Onuoha's poor clearance, beat Wayne Bridge, deflect a cross off Bridge and Joleon Lescott and watch Yossi Benayoun react faster than Pablo Zabaleta to preserve a point for a manager with one win in 10. Adebayor went missing, too, when Skrtel converted Gerrard's corner.

It took a player of Manchester United pedigree to take the game to a higher place. A seat on the Anfield bench was the kind of prospect Carlos Tevez left Old Trafford to avoid and Hughes insisted that his first-team place is not guaranteed: "He won't play every game. There are a lot of players who won't play every game; we have a good squad and you just have to make sure the player understands the thinking behind it."

But the intensity which Tevez injected – his hoist on Skrtel out near the corner flag and reverse pass which Wright-Phillips seized on to set up Ireland was the epitome of it – will make him hard to leave out too often.

The two sides will conclude that their next opponents – Everton and Hull – are the ones they really need to beat and that shared honours are acceptable. But on this evidence, Adebayor's claim that the fight for the top four is "between Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and us" looks highly presumptuous.

Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina; Carragher, Skrtel, Agger (Kyrgiakos 11), Insua; Mascherano, Lucas; Kuyt, Gerrard, Babel (Benayoun, 18; Aurelio, 85); Ngog. Substitutes not used: Cavalieri, Aquilani, Riera, El Zhar.

Manchester City (4-1-4-1) Given; Zabaleta, Touré (Onuoha, 46), Lescott, Bridge; De Jong; Barry (Tevez, 61), Wright-Phillips, Ireland, Bellamy; Adebayor. Substitutes not used: Taylor, Johnson, Santa Cruz, Kompany, Weiss.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Booked: Liverpool Carragher, Lucas.

Attendance: 44,164.

Benitez asks squad to rise above the injuries

Rafael Benitez will not have Fernando Torres aboard Liverpool's flight to Hungary this morning and still does not seem ready to deploy £17m Alberto Aquilani against Debrecen, with his side's Champions League hopes hanging by a thread.

Benitez, desperate for a turn of fortune after one win in 10, will be forced to turn to Europa League football if Lyons win in Fiorentina tomorrow but in the meantime needs a better display than the 1-0 win over the Hungarian champions in September. "We have to do our job. We have to be ready to win and that's it," he said.

Benitez is unlikely to use Ryan Babel, who injured his right ankle under a two-footed challenge from Manchester City's Nigel de Jong. But the manager has some hopes for Daniel Agger, who needed five stitches to a head wound after Kolo Touré inadvertently butted him. Yossi Benayoun, Fabio Aurelio and Albert Riera are also in contention.

Meanwhile Manchester City manager Mark Hughes hopes to have Robinho on the bench for the visit of Hull City next Saturday, having been without him since 27 August.

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam