Liverpool will have no chance at a title any time soon, and will struggle to be in the top four if they continue not to win games that they should. This is exactly what happened when they met Manchester City at Anfield last weekend. Despite downing their whipping boy Chelsea again a few days later in midweek League Cup action, the Reds let another 2 points slip from their grasp (just like they did with Norwich City and Swansea previously) as they failed to score the winning goal in a game they won in every other sense.
With King Kenny and His Scarfness roaming the sidelines, Manchester City left Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko on the bench, while Liverpool did the same with last game’s heroes Craig Bellamy and Maxi Rodriguez. Through the first quarter hour, City looked the better side, pressing early and often while Liverpool struggled to keep possession, despite the The Kop’s boisterous exhortations. Only Luis Suarez seemed to show any creativity and the hot-potato passing (of which Jordan Henderson is the master) was worrisome. Such a lethargic start was capped at the 17 minute mark when Pepe Reina had to bolt from the confines of his penalty area (for the first of three times during the game) to tackle a City player who had pounced on a short back pass from Jose Enrique.
Fortunately, the proverbial tide began to turn after that and Liverpool gained momentum, so much so that by the 25th minute City were looking frustrated and His Scarfness was no longer snug and smug on the bench, but rather red-faced on the sideline. Around the 30 minute mark, Liverpool really began to control the game and seemed certain to score when that clear opportunity inevitably came.
But then Luck struck squarely on the shoulder of Vincent Kompany, who had completely missed his header, and caromed into the top left corner of Reina’s net. Fewer than 2 minutes later, the pendulum of luck then swung to Charlie Adam, whose ambitious shot from distance was deflected by the hapless Joleon Lescott into his own goal. This intermission of yin and yang luck lasted only minutes before Liverpool were back to pressing, and it was only a brilliant save by Joe Hart on Adam’s one-touch shot that kept the score level at the half.
The second half began right where the first left off with end-to-end action, trading corners, bruising tackles (this is definitely not Serie A) and both sides pressing but Liverpool looking the more likely to score. Collective Liverpudlian hearts skipped a beat in the 71st minute when Martin Skrtel slipped, leaving an open path to goal for Balotelli who had come on 6 minutes prior. Fortunately the Italian had been practicing his reverse pratfalls as he tripped on his ego and squandered the Slovakian’s gift.
The narrow miss amped up the intensity even more, and around the 80th minute City were against the ropes as wave after wave of red uniforms stormed their penalty area and quickly won back the ball. Liverpool were playing head and shoulders above the visitors and deserved a goal but the soccer gods and Joe Hart were conspiring against them. Next, in the 82nd minute, Balotelli showed his ass again when he picked up a second yellow for an arm across the face of Skrtel. The challenge perhaps only should have been a foul and not a yellow, but the petulant, impossibly talented, Mohawk-coiffed man/child probably deserved to be kicked off for the stupidity of lasting only 17 minutes.
As the minutes ticked down, and with a man advantage, Liverpool threw everything forward, but in their rush to capitalize on their power play situation they were unable to create the kind of quality chances they had been able to throughout the game. Then, in the 93rd minute, Joe “Break a Liverpool” Hart miraculously saved Andy Carroll’s header and saved the game for City again.
If you had asked me at the beginning of the game if I would be OK with a draw against the league leaders who are undefeated and scoring seemingly at will of late, I probably would have said yes. But after outplaying, outcreating and outshooting City all day, a draw ended up being a bitter pill.