Rafa Benitez was again without Fernando Torres and full back Glen Johnson failed a pre-match fitness test meaning Jamie Carragher, returning from suspension, was switched to right back with Skrtel joining Agger in the centre. Insua continued at left back, Lucas and Mascherano were the waterboys in the middle, with Gerrard behind Ngog and Babel and Kuyt out wide. Riera and Benayoun made the bench, along with Alberto Aquilani, after suffering hamstring injuries in the Birmingham draw.
After just 5 minutes Liverpool suffered their first blow as Agger suffered a nasty head injury and had to be replaced by Kyrgiakos. Ten minutes later it was Babel who was forced off after a collision between him, Gerrard and City defender Zabaleta. Yossi Benayoun came on, having only trained once in the last 2 weeks.
A dull first half ended goalless with Liverpool failing to build up any momentum following the injuries. Liverpool’s best effort arrived early on with Skrtel having a header well-saved by Shay Given.
The second half started better and Ngog won a free-kick which was whipped in by Gerrard and Skrtel got ahead of Adebayor to poke in with his toe from 6 yards to score his first goal for the club. 1-0.
City though hit back and enjoyed long spells of possession, they got their equaliser in the fashion most sides have against Liverpool this season – from a corner. Adebayor was left in, literally, acres of space and headed down and into the corner for one of the softest goals you’ll see. Absolutely woeful. Why do we not have a man on the back post? 1-1.
The visitors then took the lead as Wright-Phillips turned and played in Stephen Ireland, who was offside – not that that matters thesedays with our luck – to slot past Reina. 1-2.
Within 70 seconds though Liverpool had equalised, Benayoun on the spot to turn in Ngog’s deflected cross. It was a good job we caught them when we did because I sincerely doubt we’d have broken them down otherwise. 2-2.
With Benayoun clearly tiring, Aurelio came on for the last few minutes.
Liverpool were denied a penalty in the final minute with Bellamy tripping Kuyt inside the box. Not a lot was made of it but had it been anywhere else on the pitch a free kick would have been given. That’s our luck though.
Again no Aquilani, can’t be helped we didn’t see him after the two injuries so early on but the fact he didn’t start shows a lack of attacking initiative. If we’re ever going to get back on track we need to break up the Lucas-Mascherano combo. Fair enough Lucas has done little wrong this season but the fact is he does very, very little positive to influence the game. He’s a passenger, a waterboy. Sideways passes don’t win games. I’m not making Lucas a scapegoat, merely the fact is we need creativity in the middle, desperately.
Rafa needs to find some balls and contemplate dropping the likes of Lucas and Kuyt (who has been woeful this season), bring in some creativity. Fair enough we’re extremely limited by our injury problems at the moment but as the Yanks would say “Go big or go home” – we need to be brave and show some balls.
This game was meant to be a battle for who had the best pedigree for finishing in the top four – neither team showed their authority here.
Team Line-ups and Substitutions
Team Line-ups and Substitutions
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Insua, Skrtel, Agger (Kyrgiakos 10), Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Gerrard, Babel (Benayoun 17 (Aurelio 84)), Ngog
Unused Subs Cavalieri, Aquilani, Riera, El Zhar
Manchester City: Given, Zabaleta, Toure (Onuoha 45), Lescott, Bridge, De Jong, Barry (Tevez 60), Wright Phillips, Ireland, Bellamy, Adebayor
Unused Subs Taylor, Johnson, Santa Cruz, Kompany, Weiss
Referee Phil Dowd