Some Liverpool supporters care nothing about how we are perceived beyond our own fan base, and I envy that. Whether it’s in a paper, online, or pundits talking on TV, if it’s Liverpool related I can’t help but pay attention. Which is why, despite my usual grief when Liverpool lose, I was at least happy that we snatched a consolation goal yesterday against Man City. 3-0 would have been a lot more of an emphatic score line than 3-1, and I don’t think I could have dealt with a week of listening to clueless onlookers write us off after one bad result.
The gulf between the teams wasn’t all that big for the most part, but the better team did win, and when we went down to 10 men because of Johnson’s injury, I did worry that we may be in for 4 or 5-1 defeat that would cause an explosion of overreaction among other supporters. But we were dealing with injuries, new signings still settling in, early season wariness, and an away match against the reigning champions.
For most of the first half, we actually played relatively well. Neither side was creating much in front of goal, but as the away team we were keeping the ball well and could afford to be patient.
Unfortunately, a mistake from debutant Alberto Moreno allowed Stevan Jovetic to score, and after that the game changed. It was a shame for the Spaniard, who aside from that mistake actually enjoyed a very good debut and was a breath of fresh air for us on that left hand side. Hopefully the injury he picked up towards the end of the game isn’t serious, and he can go straight back in the team with no dwelling on his error.
Lazar Markovic also showed glimpses of what he is capable of when he came on. His quick, direct running put Man City on the back foot a couple of times. He’s exactly the sort of dynamic player you want on the bench to throw on against tired legs, whereas last year we were looking to the likes of Victor Moses or Iago Aspas.
It was Philippe Coutinho who made way for the Serbian, after another quiet game by his standards. His majestic performance against Dortmund had a lot of people looking to him to step up another level this season, but he’s had a couple of lacklustre appearances so far. However, with Markovic only just back, and Adam Lallana and Mario Balotelli still to come into the team, our options in attack have been limited and Coutinho has found himself playing out wide. When Brendan Rodgers gets his full squad available for selection, we could see the Brazilian move back into the middle and hopefully kick on from there.
You’re never going to get a great abundance of chances when you go away to Man City, but both Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge only had odd moments of showing what they are capable of, so we really struggled in attack to produce anything akin to a clear cut chance.
The midfield of Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson were more preoccupied with covering Steven Gerrard behind them to support any attacks, but in the system we play they were only doing what was necessary. On the whole I don’t think we were too bad in midfield, and Joe Allen at least reminded us that he’s still very much part of this squad, and very much capable of a good performance.
Whether we have business still to be done in the transfer market remains to be seen, but there are certainly two or three areas where we could realistically strengthen. Glen Johnson and Lucas Leiva (against Southampton) look a long way off their best, but I can’t see us buying new players in their position unless we can move them on first. Keeping them both wouldn’t be the end of the world, but we’d need to see drastic improvement in them, or hope that injuries elsewhere mean we aren’t relying too heavily on them.
Overall, I don’t see any reason to be too disheartened. We were exposed in areas we knew were weak, or vulnerable for whatever reason. But we were exposed by world class players, who were playing on their own soil, and were readily gelled as a group. As the last couple of seasons have shown, we’re a team who take a while to settle into a season, and in that sense maybe this game came a bit too early for us. We can’t use that as an excuse though; the Etihad is a tough place to go whenever you make the visit, and last season a much better performance still resulted in us being beaten.
We’ll get better as we go on, no doubt. Yesterday wasn’t our day at all, and in truth Man City could have made it even worse on us. At 3-1, we can just take it as a bad day at the office, and laugh off anyone implying it was a thrashing that will have shattered our confidence. On paper it was the toughest fixture we’ll play all season long. We’ll be in better shape come Sunday when we play Tottenham, and keep improving week on week after that.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)
Brendan Rodgers and his Liverpool team arrived at the Etihad Stadium last night looking to build on a promising start to their Premiership campaign. To do so would mean overturning the title holders Manchester City in their own back yard. A tall order in anyone’s book.
Rodgers opted to start with Joe Allen partnering Jordan Henderson in midfield instead of Lucas Leiva who, following his poor showing against Southampton found himself out of the squad completely. Rumours abound that his stay at Anfield may be coming to an end with reported interest from Napoli. The front three of Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge remained.
The rest of the side was as as suggested in The LFC File preview. Glen Johnson was preferred to young Javi Manquillo at right back and summer signing Alberto Moreno making his debut at left back – and what a debut it turned out to be. Liverpool fell behind in the 41st minute despite starting brightly and having the lion’s share of possession and chances up until that point. The 22 year-old was given a rude awakening as he learned one cannot switch off in the English Premier League. Stevan Jovetic pouncing on his late reaction to fire through the legs of the exposed Simon Mignolet.
The second half began as the first ended, with the hosts in the ascendency and the visitors chasing the game. Within 10 minutes of the restart, the worst was confirmed as City extended their lead. The flat-footed Liverpool defence were caught out by more magic from Jovetic as he collected a Samir Nasri cross to slot high into the net. 2-0, a mountain to climb and confirmation that Rodgers still has not sorted out the team’s left hand side. A fact that was not lost on Manuel Pellegrini who steered his side toward the visitors’ Achilles heel.
The introduction of another debutant Lazar Markovic for Coutinho sparked a short and unconvincing revival. Another quarter of an hour passed, another goal was conceded by Liverpool. A pass reminiscent of Henderson’s assist for Sterling against Southampton was made by Jesus Navas on 69 minutes into the stride of Sergio Aguero, who had only just come on, to put the game beyond doubt shooting low beneath Mignolet. 3-0 Manchester City. It was truly good night and Liverpool it has to be said, played likewise.
Emre Can came on for Allen but didn’t really have much to offer and to be fair to him the game, as a contest was over. Pablo Zabaleta gave Liverpool a consolation with seven minutes left, helping last substitute Rickie Lambert’s header over the line after 79 minutes. From there on, things just went from bad to worse for the visitors as Johnson left the field injured and was almost followed by debutant Moreno after he fell awkwardly on is ankle in the closing minutes. The team limped across the line almost literally as Martin Skrtel also pulled up. Suffice to say they just weren’t at the races after the first half hour.
Liverpool were exposed on the occasion. To be fair to Rodgers and as pointed out in the preview yesterday, this game came about just that bit too soon in the season for his team. The side’s left flank was poor and this was exploited expertly by City. It’s clear in my mind that had Jon Flanagan been fit, he’d have started in the left back position. A debut against the champions is a baptism of fire in anyone’s book. I feel for Moreno in that respect because he didn’t really do much else wrong other than that. Nothing a run of games won’t solve.
It’s also clear that Coutinho is too lightweight for these kind of games and Adam Lallana would have been the perfect alternative – had he been fit. I’m convinced that when Lallana returns from injury, Coutinho will be dropped. It’s a shame but his lack of physical presence is showing now and these last two games have proved that. Opposition players can muscle him out too easily and we saw this again last night as Yaya Touré knocked him flying on a couple of occasions.
So all things considered, it’s hard luck for Liverpool. I feel there were players on the pitch last night who wouldn’t have been, in my opinion had there been alternatives. Has the squad been improved? Yes, it undoubtedly has but time is need for the additions to settle in properly and show what they can do. Fortunately for Man City, as with all of us, timing is everything.
Follow me on Twitter: @Mrbengreen
A disappointing Liverpool left the Etihad empty handed, as a Jovetic inspired City beat the Reds 3-1. Jovetic gave them the lead after a mistake from debutant Alberto Moreno, and doubled it in the second half. Aguero added a third before Rickie Lambert/Pablo Zabaleta forced a consolation over the line. Post Match Paul brings the Uncensored Match Reaction Show…