Manchester City vs. Liverpool: Rating Both Sets of Players
A Mario Balotelli-less City started with poacher extraordinaire Edin Dzeko up front, and Sergio Aguero sat just behind him. Whereas Liverpool put their faith in the blossoming new partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
It was a fast-paced, highly contested and exciting match, only marred by Dzeko's "injury" in the build up to Liverpool's goal, and Sturridge's late reaction dive to being brushed by Joleon Lescott's little toenail in the penalty box.
In a game where the visitors looked marginally more at home at the Etihad than Roberto Mancini's men, it was a tale of two screamers for Liverpool, and a defensive howler from the Reds that gave them two points less than they deserved, whereas City claimed two points less than they wanted in their quest to close the gap on Manchester United.
A great game of football, and one that replicated the same fixture in August, almost goal-for-goal.
Here are my ratings for both sets of players. And, of course, let me know yours below.
Manchester City: Goalkeeper
Joe Hart: 7.5/10
There was not much Joe Hart could do about either Liverpool goal, with both shots from outside the box unstoppable. A couple of uncertain punches cannot be overlooked, and his positioning was sometimes questionable, but his reaction saves were spot on for the majority of the game. A game that Liverpool probably should have won, and would have won if it wasn't for the man between the sticks.
Just minutes from time, the irrepressible Daniel Sturridge could have claimed his second goal of the day, but the England 'keeper gave his club side a point after a diving save to his right to push the ball out of harm's way.
Manchester City: Defense
Pablo Zabaleta: 7/10
Zabaleta had a strong game and took on the role of captaincy with aplomb. Alongside Gael Clichy, he looked the most confident in the Citizens' attempts to deal with the Liverpool attack.
Despite nearly scoring an own goal, he worked well throughout the game, even if his usual forward runs were sacrificed to provide a more resolute back line.
Matija Nastasic: 6/10
After struggling to cope with the pace of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, Nastasic was replaced 55 minutes in. He proved why Vincent Kompany is so integral to City's defense, as when he has the Belgian by his side, he looks a lot more comfortable at the back.
By no means a poor performance, just not a great one.
Joleon Lescott: 6.5/10
A performance that wreaked of a player struggling with the lack of first-team football, Lescott was nervy on more than one occasion. This was only his third full Premier League match since December 1, and with Kompany absent Lescott was charged with being the rock at the back. And he put a huge amount of effort and commitment into doing just that.
Despite some rushed decisions, he proved on Sunday that his confidence is slowly starting to return.
Gael Clichy: 7.5/10
Clichy was one of the more composed City players when dealing with Liverpool's attack. He looked lively when at left-back and settled well into the center when Roberto Mancini switched things around.
Despite providing the clearance that allowed Steven Gerrard to unleash his thunderbolt, Clichy was off-balance and could not have anticipated what was to come next. In fairness, if it had fallen to anyone other than Stevie G, there probably wouldn't have been anything to anticipate.
Manchester City: Midfield
James Milner: 8/10
James Milner was one of the hardest working players on the pitch today, both in attack and defense. Providing the assist for Dzeko's goal, he troubled Glen Johnson time and time again down the wing.
Sometimes on his own on the right thanks to Zabaleta's more reserved positioning, his movement off the ball was impressive as he chased down the opposition to provide cover for the right-back, as well as attacking the ball on the break.
Javi Garcia: 5.5/10
Garcia was underwhelming today. Despite his usual presence in the box during set pieces, his game mirrored that of his City career so far: He doesn't seem to be able to produce on a consistent basis.
He dropped deeper and deeper as the match wore on to try and counter-act the Suarez/Sturridge partnership and ended up drifting out of the game completely.
Gareth Barry: 7.5/10
Gareth Barry was dependable, solid but nothing spectacular. The three key ingredients to a good defensive midfielder. He was rarely caught wrong-footed and was in complete control of the midfield for much of the game.
David Silva: 7/10
Silva showed quick footwork and forward thinking, but lacked that drive into the box he usually displays. A nice looking performance, but City fans would probably have liked to have seen a little more flair and attacking nous in an attempt to change the game.
Manchester City: Attack
Sergio Aguero: 9/10
Aguero cut through the Liverpool defense with ease on more than one occasion and showed signs of reaching the form he was in prior to his injury. His second-half performance was sensational, and the goal to tie the game was quite simply terrific.
Making the most of a poor goalkeeping decision, Aguero finished with flair and finesse, at an incredibly difficult angle. Each time Aguero went forward, the Liverpool defense looked afraid to tackle him.
Edin Dzeko: 7.5/10
Despite Dzeko's attempt to win an Oscar for the"Best Injury Recovery Once Decision Fails To Go Your Way" award, the striker had a decent game.
His goal, which broke the deadlock, was more than a simple poacher's goal. He led his marker out to the edge of the box before turning on his heels and sticking Milner's cross in the back of the net. And he showed such vision in movement for the rest of the game.
Manchester City: Substitutes
Aleksandar Kolarov: 5/10
You'd be excused for forgetting Kolarov wasn't still sat on the bench, with the Serbian having very little impact on the game after being brought on.
In an attempt to shore up the back line, Kolarov was moved to the right, and Gael Clichy switched to the center. This only resulted in the left side of Manchester City losing the threat that it was showing when Clichy linked up with David Silva prior to the substitution.
Obviously not Maicon's fault, but bringing him on for David Silva was a less-than-inspired move. Maicon was another player who failed to get involved in the game after his introduction.
Less than 10 minutes played. Not enough for a true analysis.
Pepe Reina: 6/10
An absolutely ridiculous decision costs Reina any higher marks. Storming out of his area to try and take down Sergio Aguero was going to finish one of two ways: a red card or a goal. And a goal it was.
That poor decision cost Liverpool the game (but don't take anything away from Aguero and his skill), however prior to that, the Spaniard had made some good saves keeping out numerous City attempts. But that Aguero goal will not be forgotten very soon.
Glen Johnson: 7/10
At fault for City's first goal, Glen Johnson allowed James Milner to turn him inside out to deliver the ball for Edin Dzeko to score on 23 minutes. However, Johnson's overall performance was that of an aggressive attacking mindset, and he took the game to the opposition.
Jamie Carragher: 7/10
Back in the side in place of Martin Skrtel, Carragher was dominant in the air and made some very important tackles. He contained Aguero reasonably, and his performance was that of full commitment. Despite being a bit-part player this season, he was determined not to be outdone by the youth of the Liverpool lineup, and he didn't look a day over 34.
Daniel Agger: 7.5/10
A superb second-half display from the man with hair like a badger, and the Dane worked well with Carragher in the center of defense. His first half, however, was a little sloppier, giving away possession too easily and losing Dzeko for his goal. Overall, though, he was strong and composed.
Jose Enrique: 7/10
Replaced 15 minutes from time, as Brendan Rodgers had suggested may be the case prior to the match. Enrique struggled to control James Milner, but then again James Milner was playing very well.
Overall his defending was solid, his positioning and vision were consistent and he looked to mirror Johnson in moving up in attack.He also provided some width on the flank.
Steven Gerrard: 8/10
That goal. Immense.
Steven Gerrard did what Steven Gerrard does best and scored an absolute blinder of a goal from 25 yards out, which was unfortunate not to have been the winner. It definitely deserved to be.
The captain was a rock in the midfield as usual, controlling the play and holding the ball until releasing a pass for his attacking compadres to latch onto.But really, the rating is for that goal.
Lucas Leiva: 7/10
A solid display from Lucas, and alongside Gerrard, he was the cog that kept the Liverpool wheel turning from defense into attack. Much like his opponent Gareth Barry, he was not spectacular, but his positioning and passing are to be commended, and he stayed on his feet during some impeccably timed challenges.
Stewart Downing: 7/10
An impressive performance for the sometimes slated winger, Downing was strong in attack and played some quality balls across the box. Holding his own against Gael Clichy, Downing had a good game, and his pace and subsequent delivery were impressive and consistent.
If Downing manages to continue in this vein of form, he'll continue to keep highly rated youngster Raheem Sterling out of the team.
Jordan Henderson: 6.5/10
Usually a critic of Mr Henderson, he proved me wrong today, and he was more noticeable than just for receiving a yellow card. Improving game by game, Henderson was trying to be creative against Man City.
Despite wasting a few good chances, he seems to be finding his feet eventually and is starting to make an impact on the big games.
Daniel Sturridge: 8/10
Sturridge has been proving a point to Chelsea since his departure from West London and continued to do so against Man City by scoring his third goal in his last four league matches for his new club. And this one has to go down as one of his best.
An emphatic finish from outside the box, not put off by the whistles from the City fans with Dzeko down in his own half. However Sturridge did as all young boys are told: play to the whistle, and that whistle came when the ball smashed into the back of the net.
His dive was the only blot on his copy book on what was a superb display from the England international, and his progress since joining Liverpool has been remarkable.
Luis Suarez: 7/10
Despite not getting on the scoresheet, Luis Suarez worked hard as usual and caused the City backline problems. His game involved some delicate touches, some promising runs and turning defenders for fun, the only thing missing was a goal.
But his finishing touch was lacking. Turns out even as lethal a striker as Suarez can have an off-day..
Martin Skrtel: 6/10
His first involvement in the game saw him let Sergio Aguero outrun him, which subsequently caused him to stand off the City striker as Reina (for whatever reason) charged out of his box, as they then both watched Aguero finish from a most incredible angle. However, despite that poor start, Skrtel picked his game up and made some crucial challenges in the last 15 minutes to deny City the win.
Less than 10 minutes played. Not enough for a true analysis.