LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26: Carlos Tevez of Manchester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal as Martin Skrtel of Liverpool reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield on August 26, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
There are matches over the course of the season when a draw is viewed as one point gained rather than two points lost and not many City fans would be too dissatisfied leaving Anfield with a share of the spoils. In another entertaining and open encounter in which the away team were never really in control, a late howler from Martin Skrtel gifted the reformed Carlos Tevez the opportunity to restore parity for a 2nd time and secure his 100th league goal in English football in the process.
A bright, pacy and enterprising Liverpool, roared on by an Anfield crowd who always raise the volume when the big boys come to town, posed plenty of problems for City whose recent defensive frailties were exposed again to concede two goals for the 3rd match in succession.
With the 3-5-2 given its first competitive outing from the start, Liverpool were able to expose the weaknesses of the formation as young Raheem Sterling in particular was able to prey on the rusty Kolo Toure. Kolo was the notable surprise on the team sheet and was presumably selected ahead of Lescott as he is quicker than the England man. The benefits of the wing back system - natural width and a strong three man central midfield as witnessed in the Community Shield, was negated by Liverpool’s forwards pressing high up the pitch. The central midfield area was tight with space restricted throughout.
Post game Mancini again lamented the lack of transfer activity over the summer and what once seemed like politicking at club policy and the new refusal to pay ‘City premium’ salaries and transfer fees, there may now be greater foundation in the need to strengthen to a significant degree. An extremely talented squad requires internal competition to maintain the razor sharp competitive edge and ward off any creeping complacency which may set in on the back of last years dramatic achievement. Scott Sinclair will arrive over the coming days and provides width, pace and zest to the frontline. Unfortunately this game proffered the conclusion that purchasing an additional centre back prior to the window closing in 5 days should be considered a priority. A ball playing centre half who can also cover in midfield should be targeted – Javi Martinez fits the bill, but would come at some expense.
The one summer signing to date, Jack Rodwell was introduced here to a hostile reception as would be expected for a former Evertonian. Unfortunately again, his significant contribution was to result in a goal for the opposition, conceding the free kick from which Suarez expertly bent the ball round the wall and restored Liverpool’s advantage. In an incident bearing similarity to Micah Richards in the League Cup here last year, Rodwell was penalised for an excellent block challenge in which the ball ricocheted from the sliding leg up onto the arm. Suarez ensured severe punishment was meted out.
That fine strike was in response to an equaliser from Yaya Toure who following Rodwell’s introduction again demonstrated his worth to the team in an advanced role. The goal punished poor Liverpool defending as Tevez evaded Sterling to cross, the ball flicking off Skrtel to beat Reina's leap and Toure was ideally placed to hook the ball in after a poor piece of control off the thigh of Kelly.
Martin Skrtel, whose day would fluctuate so dramatically, was at the peak of his powers when smashing in a header from Gerard's corner, knocking aside the feeble challenge of Kolarov to open the scoring before the break. Up to that point City had played with poise without truly clicking into gear, largely keeping Liverpool in check.
However, from the opening goal onwards City were in real jeopardy of tasting defeat in only the 2nd game of the season. Too many players were below par, Tevez and Toure aside. Of concern is the open nature of City’s play at present, great for the neutral and the bean counters at Sky TV, but not conducive to winning league titles. It's an oft said adage that you only realise what you have when it's gone, and the tactical discipline, ball retention and ability to close down opposition attacks consistently provided by Gareth Barry cannot come soon enough. The unheralded midfielder may just be the most important addition to the squad over the coming weeks.
This was an uncertain display with plenty of scope for improvement. On the plus side City’s belief and character cannot be questioned. All told, the result outweighs the performance at this stage of the season and a draw away to Liverpool is not to be sniffed at. One point gained, no question.
Man of the Match: Carlos Tevez