Liverpool Show Promise as Manchester City's Unconvincing Start Continues
Manchester City were lucky to leave Anfield with a point on Sunday, after Liverpool gifted the defending Premier League champions both goals in a 2-2 draw.
For Liverpool fans, disappointment is relative, and it was still an afternoon to cleanse their opening 3-0 loss to West Brom and raise hope that Brendan Rodgers can steer his next-generation team towards a brighter future.
Teenaged winger Raheem Sterling sparkled in the sunshine, while Joe Allen put up the kind of passing numbers that had Rodgers' former team Swansea labelled the Welsh answer to Barcelona with Allen in their ranks last season.
Liverpool were the better side. Driven by Steven Gerrard on vintage swashbuckling form, they owned midfield and should have made more of their territorial advantage.
But, as was so often the case last season at Anfield, the home side couldn't bring it home and somehow conspired to turn three points into one.
First, confusion between Martin Kelly and Pepe Reina gave Yaya Toure a simple tap-in to level at 1-1. Then, after Luis Suarez had curled a free-kick home to reassert Liverpool's advantage, Martin Skrtel's careless backpass allowed Carlos Tevez a free run on goal to equalize with 10 minutes remaining.
City, twice reprieved, will have left the stadium eternally grateful for Liverpool's lapses of concentration. And knowing they've taken four points from two games that could quite easily have delivered none.
Roberto Mancini's team were owners of the league's tightest defence last season but have now conceded four in their opening two games and appear to have begun the new campaign with heavier legs than they ended the last.
Against Liverpool, Mancini took the curious decision of switching to the 3-5-2 formation he's been testing out in preseason. And the even curiouser one of picking Kolo Toure over Joleon Lescott—the latter being one part of the Premier League's most impressive central defensive combination last season with Vincent Kompany.
Not quite sure of logic behind Kolo Toure starting ahead of Joleon Lescott. Always think #MCFC more vulnerable when Toure in defence.— Daniel Taylor (@DTguardian) August 26, 2012
There was also a start for Mario Balotelli, who appears to have completely forgotten whatever it was he deployed with such blistering effect at Euro 2012. Balotelli was anonymous against Liverpool and unsurprisingly removed from proceedings just after the hour mark by Mancini.
Edin Dzeko must be wondering what he has to do to get in the starting lineup.
Another man conspicuous by his absence was David Silva—City's magician in residence—who had to wait until the 76th minute to come on as a substitute for the ever-workmanlike James Milner.
How Mancini's team were crying out for some inspiration going forward. How they could have done with Silva's craft for the rest of the game, too.
Perhaps the only player to emerge with real credit for City was Carlos Tevez, whose performance evoked an intensity his teammates failed to match. Liverpool fans won't have enjoyed watching the former Manchester United man score in front of The Kop, but it's hard to argue Tevez didn't deserve his goal.
Whether City did is another question entirely.
Mancini's team finished with an almighty fizz last season, but they've been worryingly flat in their two games so far. Just the remnants of a monumental hangover? Or are we seeing early signs that City won't necessarily be the force we expect them to be this time around?
One game doesn't maketh the season, but for tonight—and for once—Liverpool fans have more to celebrate than those from the blue half of Manchester.
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