A satisfying victory in the end over City’s MAIN rivals helped continue the good start to the season for the champions, who have been given a tricky set of fixtures to begin their title defence.
With part of the South stand roof missing, predictably the weather duly obliged and the match resembled a pre-Xmas game as a cool wind helped dull conditions further. Thankfully I was directly below where the roof ended so only the left side of my body got wet. As you’d expect, City ran out of ponchos, not that I had any intention of wearing one. I had made suitable preparations and brought something called a coat, which included something called a hood.
The line up contained few surprises, with Aguero not yet considered fully fit and Fernandinho (perhaps) understandably marginalised so that Fernando could provide a screen for the defence. Clichy got the nod over Kolarov, presumably for his defensive qualities and it was great to see Zabaleta on the right side.
I expected a barrel-load of BANTER (TOP BANTER, which is the best type of BANTER, and is best experienced on the BANTER BUS) to head Liverpool’s way considering the circumstances, but the atmosphere was actually a bit muted. This is not entirely the fault of the fans though. With a whole Bank Holiday weekend to play the match on, being plonked on Monday night killed the atmosphere and was deeply disappointing. I wish just once we could tell Sky where to go. This will never happen of course.
Again, as against Newcastle, the level of performance is not that important, only the result. Like other teams, there is work to be done, fitness to gain and other players to come in and make their mark. With Chelsea and Arsenal on the horizon, gaining three points was especially important for City, who do not want to be playing catch-up all season again.
In a match preview I did for the Redmen TV, I mentioned that Liverpool could challenge for the title if they could toughen up the defence this season. Early indications suggest they haven’t. City exploited this and hence won the game. In the end though, City simply showed their class. That is, after all, why we’re champions. Where a Liverpool defender made a mistake, a City defender made a crucial block. In front of goal, Jovetic and Aguero were more clinical and these are the differences between champions and contenders. If City keep being this clinical then we stand a good chance of retaining the title.
There was no miscarriage of justice for Liverpool to fall back on this time, so instead there was the need to point out that they were the better side before the first goal. This wasn’t completely true in a cagey first half when few chances were created by either side. Liverpool passed it well and closed City down for a while, but you don’t get any points for that. If trophies are being handed out for “played pretty football for the first half”, then this really could be Liverpool’s year. In truth, Liverpool have consistently posed us more problems than any other team so the result was all the sweeter – the team won’t get much sterner tests than this in the league this season, so it bodes well at this early stage.
Liverpool threatened more in the second half when City were on top perversely, as City seemed to switch off for small periods, Kompany at one point screaming at his team-mates to wake up after a near-miss for Liverpool. In the end their consolation goal was the result of more sloppy defending and a lack of concentration was one of the few minor concerns on a profitable night.
And to be fair, I was once more impressed with Liverpool. I think they have continued where they left off last season and should make the Top Four this season, which is not good news for our neighbours. Sterling is certainly going to be some player.
Strange how a City injury can prove beneficial, but Edin Dzeko’s knock, which thankfully does not appear to be serious, led to the introduction of Aguero, who scored within 23 seconds. It felt like less, and this must surely rank as one of the quickest ever goals by a City substitute. As for Dzeko, he toiled but it wasn’t his best night.
Jovetic however, once more showed his class. I continue to pray he can maintain his fitness this season, and I hope to see much more of his rippled torso (as it means he has scored, obviously. What did you think I meant?). He is quite simply top-class and versatile and alongside Aguero could be even better.
Elsewhere, and Fernando continues to show what a potential bargain he may be. He completed 97% (61/63) of his passes.
If you fancy some other reading (judas!) then may I suggest Michael Cox’s latest offering on David Silva. Cox was impressed once more with Silva last night and how he runs between the lines. Even when he’s not dominating games Silva is often still making the team tick. Cox mentioned that Steven Gerrard couldn’t cope with the movement of Silva and I do wonder how much of a success one of the greatest midfielders of the Premier League era will cope in his more withdrawn role when up against such movement. For all the criticism that Liverpool’s defence receives, perhaps the man in front of them is part of the problem.
Balotelli unsurprisingly hogs much of the back-page headlines in the tabloids today, rather than the match between last season’s top two. That says it all really.
As does this, typifying the massive U-turns suddenly being navigated by the swathe of Liverpool-supporting pundits/ex-players:
Mark Lawrenson, 10/12/12:
IT’S GOT TO BE ALL OVER FOR BALOTELLI AFTER THIS DISGRACEFUL SHOW
..this is a player that thinks the whole world revolves around him. That’s the problem.
..I cannot think of a single more destructive influence in the Premier League.
Balotelli is not worth the aggravation. He is not worth the time they spend on him. He certainly doesn’t do anything for dressing room harmony.
Just get rid of him.
Mark Lawrenson: Liverpool Echo, this week (selected snippets).
Brendan Rodgers may have raised many eyebrows with his capture of the Italian, but ultimately it makes more sense the longer you look at it.
Liverpool were running out of options. Where else could they have looked?
Comparatively speaking, £16million for a player who, at 24, has already played for three major clubs and has scored for Italy in a European Championship and a World Cup is a bargain. Balotelli’s CV is tremendous. And as a striker he has everything you would want. He is a beast who on his day is almost unplayable. A genuine handful.
It has to be said that many of the stories attributed to Balotelli during his time at Manchester City weren’t true.
I’m not that concerned that Sturridge could find his nose put out of joint. Sturridge was able to play alongside Luis Suarez, so why not Balotelli? Even then, the arrival of a new striker would surely inspire the England man, who in any case has such a good goalscoring record he would be one of the first names on the teamsheet regardless when fit.
As long as the dynamic in the dressing room isn’t affected, I can’t see Balotelli being a major problem. And the impression I get from speaking to others is that he is a very likeable bloke, particularly with his team-mates.
Still, all that’s preferable to the Mirror’s headline today – ALL YOU NEED IS JOV. The paper also seemed to think the win had sent City top.
Di Maria is a great player. For £60m I’d expect the second coming of Christ. Buying success again, the United way – it’s in their DNA, don’t you know?
THEY EARNED IT THOUGH!!!!!!