Manchester City visited Liverpool on Saturday hoping for their first League win at Anfield in nine seasons. For Roberto Mancini, it was a quest to undo a personal history of futility as City manager as well, having taken just 2 points from six previous games.
After Sunday’s 2-2 draw, the record stands at two points from six games, but on balance it has to be a result that Mancini could live with, as City capitalized on two Liverpool defensive errors to come away with a fortunate point. Brendan Rodgers will be disappointed, though encouraged by his team's effort.
An apparent mix-up between Martin Skrtel and goalkeeper Pepe Reina on a Carlos Tévez cross into the box saw the ball fall invitingly for Yaya Touré to tap home in the 63rd minute.
Later, a shocking back pass by Skrtel in the 80th minute was intercepted by the vigilant Carlos Tévez who calmly dribbled around a hapless Reina before slotting home. Both goals came very much against the run of play, with Liverpool leading and largely controlling the action.
City started promisingly enough, pressing the Reds very high up the pitch, and controlling 63 percent of the possession in the game’s opening 25 minutes. Tévez even came dangerously close to scoring in the 19th minute when he hit the inside of the far post from a tight angle after eluding Reina.
Moments earlier, Fabio Borini, in what has become a worrying early season theme, should have done better to put home a tantalizing cross from Raheem Sterling, making his first full Liverpool start. Sterling was brilliant throughout, continuing to justify the early confidence Rodgers has shown in him.
Sterling proved himself a real handful for Kolo Touré on the left side of the Liverpool attack; his menacing would eventually draw a second defender, creating space in the middle for Borini and Steven Gerrard to exploit.
On one such foray, Gerrard’s 34th minute delivery into the box was put just over the crossbar by City captain, Vincent Kompany.
On the resulting corner, an unmarked Skrtel found room between City’s zonal marking set up to run onto Gerrard’s corner and power Liverpool to a well-deserved lead, which they took into the intermission.
The game settled into a bit of a stalemate in the second half as Liverpool continued to increase their share of the possession and cut off the vital supply of balls to the City forwards. Mancini responded by substituting the ineffective Samir Nasri, and bringing on Jack Rodwell in the 60th minute.
With City trailing, bringing on the more defensively-minded Rodwell was perhaps not the move that many would have anticipated, but it allowed Yaya Touré to become more involved in the attack, and paid immediate dividends when he scored three minutes later.
Rodwell would once again feature prominently in play, albeit not for reasons that he would want remembered. Last week he gave away possession in midfield and allowed Southampton to score on the break.
This time he slid to block Gerrard’s speculative shot from distance, only to inadvertently handle the ball in the process. On the resulting free kick, Luis Suárez curled a magnificent shot around the outside of the wall and just into the right side of Joe Hart’s goal to restore Liverpool’s lead in the 63rd minute.
Mario Balotelli had just made way for Edin Dzeko, and with a final roll of the dice, Mancini brought on David Silva for a fading James Milner. Liverpool would continue to frustrate City until Tévez's fateful interception, which injected late life into the contest as both teams sought a winner that never came.
As always, player ratings are presented by position (back-to-front) below, along the following guidelines:
10: Exceptional—superlative performances only.
9: Excellent—outstanding performance.
8: Impressive—very influential game.
7: Very good—eye-catching game.
6: Average—good game, but nothing overly impressive.
5: Below Average—decent performance, but with some faults.
4: Poor—many faults, performance stands out for all the wrong reasons.
Additionally, any performance that affects the outcome of the game will increase or decrease a player’s rating by half a point (.5).
Reina— could not replicate his stellar performance from last week, and should have done better on the cross that resulted in the goal. Replays seem to suggest that Skrtel may have gotten a slight deflection ahead of him, but even if he didn’t, his attempt was enough to distract Reina into what became a disastrous miss. Could not have done anything with the Skrtel back pass, and earlier did very well to not concede a penalty on the play that saw Tévez hit the far post. Grade 5.5
Martin Kelly (Jose Enrique 66th)— with José Enrique still on the mend, Glen Johnson was again shifted to left back and Kelly inserted into the right back role. It was an improved performance by Kelly as he once again showed a willingness to contribute to the attack, while also tracking back to help with Balotelli. Grade 7
Sebastian Coates— the Uruguayan has yet to blossom into the star that many anticipated when he was purchased by Kenny Dalglish last season. It was a nervy start to the game for him, cheaply being caught in possession by Balotelli early on, and getting turned a couple times too easily by first the Italian and later Dzeko. His education continues however, as does his progress. Grade 6
Martin Skrtel— Everyone will rightly dwell on the horror show that was his 80th minute attempted back pass to Reina, but that gaffe should not completely overshadow what was otherwise a spectacular game for the Slovakian.
In the absence of Agger, the job of keeping the shape of the back four fell to him, and on any other day it would be a job that the Liverpool defense would live with. He cannot rightly be faulted on the Touré goal, but there’s no denying that a defender of his stature and experience should not be guilty of the type of naïve decisions, such as was his back pass, costing his team two critical early season points. Grade 5.5
Glen Johnson— Johnson was superb. Subbing once more in the less-preferred left back role, Johnson did a fantastic job of helping keep Tévez quiet, and he rendered Milner an afterthought. With Sterling playing ahead wide, he didn’t threaten as much as he perhaps would have liked but showed the ability to link well with the youngster, supporting the attack as needed. Grade 7
Joe Allen— the young Welshman had a fantastic game in midfield. Time after time, he was there to make critical interceptions or to hound the usually unflappable Yaya Touré into ceding possession. He showed a high work rate and offered himself as a critical outlet to the back four. His role in Rodgers’ system seems to be to serve as just such an outlet, while also being a critical link in bringing the ball out the back and starting the attack. Very good game on that front. Grade 7
Steven Gerrard— Captain Fantastic returned to his normal self, after what could only be described as an embarrassing performance against West Brom. He was all over the pitch for Liverpool, assisting in stifling Nasri and Touré in midfield, while being a constant menace on the attack. Had a critical hand in both Liverpool goals, assisting on Skrtel’s header and winning the free kick on Rodwell to set up Suárez's goal. Grade 8
Lucas Leiva (Jonjo Shelvy 5th) — the Brazilian limped off with what appeared to be an upper thigh injury, which he could be seen icing on the bench later on. Grade Incomplete
Fabio Borini (Andy Carroll 84th) — began the day pretty much as he did in the last game against West Brom, needlessly giving the ball away and failing to capitalize on what few opportunities fell his way. He should have at least put Sterling’s 17th minute cross on frame; he never really threatened the City defense.
He has the look of a player trying too hard not to make mistakes rather than just letting the game come to him. He defers too much to his teammates, resulting in too many ill-advised passes, and he’s not as sharp as Rodgers needs him to be in the attack. He did improve marginally in the second half, and it is perhaps with this in mind that Rodgers left him in the game for the full 90 minutes. Grade 6
Raheem Sterling— easily could have been Liverpool’s man of the match, if not for Suárez’s heroics. Sterling proved himself a handful for the City defense, and for Kolo Touré in particular. Had a very tough time of it with referee Andre Marriner, who failed to give the benefit of the doubt to the youngster on several occasions.
Finally, Suárez took it upon himself to advocate on the youngster’s behalf, at the expense of being booked for dissent. He has grown in confidence by leaps and bounds and offers Rodgers a wealth of delightful possibilities up front, along with the addition of Oussama Assaidi. Grade 8
Luis Suárez — began the game in similarly frustrating fashion as he has through most of his time on Merseyside. He continues to rush his opportunities, and the result is a scattershot effect on the attack. Ironically enough, the one time he put the ball on target he scored, albeit from the free kick.
Earned himself an unnecessary yellow card for the second straight game, although this time he can more than be forgiven. Brilliant technique on the free kick to get it around the wall and just inside the post past the diving Hart. Grade 8.5
Shelvey— the England U-21 continues to improve all-round as a player, and has established himself as a fine addition to the attack. Still has a tendency to look too quickly for the long ball, and has miles yet to go as a defender.
His positional sense and technique on tackles leave a lot to be desired, particularly his disturbing penchant for the oft reckless challenge. It is the sort of thing that will earn him needless bookings, to the team’s detriment. On this day however, he did a decent job after being pressed early into service. Grade 6
Jose Enrique — had a steady, if unspectacular 34+ minutes on the field. He came on in the immediate wake of Touré’s goal, and provided a bit more cover to Sterling, who far too often found himself isolated against Tévez, notably so on the cross for the goal. Grade 6
Andy Carroll — It was another meaningless cameo for Carroll, albeit it more understandable why his participation came as late as it did this time around. Grade Incomplete
Brad Jones, Jamie Carragher, Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing