Roberto Mancini’s new-look Manchester City side announced themselves as title contenders on Monday night by demolishing a lacklustre Liverpool at the City of Manchester Stadium in front of Sheikh Mansour as he made his first appearance at Eastlands in the week that his investment into the club topped £1billion. The drama started before the match even kicked off as, wantaway Argentine, Javier Mascherano announced to Roy Hodgson that he didn’t want to play and was subsequently left out as interest from Inter Milan and Barcelona was stepped up.
City started the brighter and had the first shot in anger when Adam Johnson’s left footed drive whistled past Pepe Reina’s right hand post leaving the spaniard scrambling accross in hope rather than expectation of making a save. The game saw James Milner make his City debut and it didn’t take long for the multi-million pound man to make an impact as he cut back for Gareth Barry to put City ahead on 13 with a simple finish into the corner of Reina’s net. Moments later, Carlos Tevez shot from a tight angle but couldn’t trouble the Liverpool goal.
Liverpool offered little in the way of chances in the first half and the combination of a below match fit Fernando Torres and David N’gog who, quite frankly, looks a little bit underqualified to warrant a Liverpool starting place despite his goals against Arsenal and Rabotnicki and his obvious potential. Liverpool’s only real threat in the first period came from the skipper, Steven Gerrard, who saw two efforts from distance sail wide of the target. These two opportunities offered Liverpool a slice of positivity to take into the interval and as Roy Hodgson spurred on his team from the sidelines, you could see a bit of confidence building.
After the break, Liverpool started quietly again and on 51, the game slipped from their grasp. Adam Johnson whipped in a corner which was met by the salmon-like jump of Micah Richards who headed towards Reina’s goal, Tevez wheeled away in celebration but whether he got the decisive touch is another matter. Tevez certainly did enough to stop Reina making the save and the goal went down under Tevez’s name. Liverpool were dead and buried from that moment on but for the next few minutes they at least gave it one last push as Gerrard’s shot clattered against the post and from the resulting penalty area melee, N’gog saw a shot blocked on the line and then Manchester City and England number one, Joe Hart, brilliantly denied Fernando Torres from point blank range and that sequence of events stopped Liverpool from grabbing themselves an unlikely foothold in the game.
Halfway through the second half, the points were sealed for city. Johnson had already earned Skrtel a booking in the third minute when he rolled him on the touchline and the clumsy Slovak fouled the pacy winger. This time, the foul was inside the area and referee Phil Dowd had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and allowing City the chance add a third. Skrtel could have no complaints and in reality was lucky not to find himself taking an early bath. Adam Johnson slightly marred what was a very good performance with a dispicable and unsporting attempt to get Skrtel sent off, a trait which blights the modern game. Tevez sent Pepe Reina the wrong way and condemned the Reds to a 3-0 defeat which is not a scoreline Liverpool are often on the wrong end of.
20 minutes from time, Fernando Torres was subbed for Ryan Babel, a move which was greeted with ironic cheering from the City faithful. This marked Torres’ tenth game without a goal for club and country and if Liverpool’s season is to be a good one, Torres needs to be firing on all cylinders.
You couldn’t help but feel sorry cash-strapped Liverpool whose purchases this summer hardly equated to a tenth of Manchester City’s and it showed on the pitch. Manchester City were a class apart and from the first kick looked the more likely to win. On the evidence of this match, Manchester City will finish above Liverpool in the Premier League. Liverpool weren’t awful, but they were a good striker, a creative midfielder and a left back away from being competitive.
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