Manchester City returned to their winning ways after thumping Liverpool by 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night. Goals from Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and James Milner sealed the victory for the Citizens in a rain soaked night in Manchester. Liverpool could have taken the lead as early as the first seven minutes of the game when Jordan Henderson threaded an exquisite through-pass to Stewart Downing, leaving him in one-on-one with Joe Hart. However, the winger couldn’t slot the ball past the Manchester City goalkeeper.
When you waste your chances against a top team, you’re bound to pay the consequence. Minutes later, City opened the scoring through Sergio Aguero, though it should go down as a horrendous goalkeeping gaffe from Pepe Reina.
Liverpool had lots of possession in the middle without actually disturbing City’s defence. In the end City took all their chances in their stride and extended their lead at the top of the table. Here are five observations from the match:
1) Hallmark of a champion team: Much has been said about City’s squad in the media. They have a great team with great individual performers who are capable of changing the vicissitude of a match single-handedly. The only aspect that remained to be seen was their mental fortitude – how they bounce back after the defeat against Sunderland was everyone’s interest. City was far from being resplendent tonight. However, the hallmark of a champion team is getting positive results even when you’re not in the best of form. Liverpool had a lion share of possession and if they could have taken their chances, the story might have been different. But ‘if’, ‘could’, ‘might’ doesn’t apply to a team that is aiming for the league glory. There’s the central difference.
2) Life without Suarez: Liverpool will have to start preparing for ‘life without Suarez’. Now that the Uruguayan will undergo his 8-match ban, Liverpool will have to cope up with his absence. At Etihad, the Reds cried out for a creative spark amidst the incessant rain. To be very honest, none of the Liverpool players have that charisma and caliber to make something happen out of nothing bar Suarez. Gerrard, maybe, but he needs players to support him. Liverpool have a difficult January and already they are feeling the heat of losing Suarez.
3) A conundrum whose name is Andy Carroll: Now, frankly let’s not kid anyone. Forget about the price-tag. What about the performance? A striker who can’t run, can’t dribble, can’t create space, can’t make intelligent passes, and can’t move. Liverpool got themselves into some very good positions in the match, but had to re-tract from those moves due to Andy Carroll. The striker can take satisfaction from the fact that his counterpart Eden Dzeko was equally awful and pathetic tonight.
4) Equally poor Downing and Johnson: Stewart Downing and Glen Johnson were equally poor throughout the match. In the second half after the introduction of Bellamy, the England winger shifted to the right hand side teeing up with Johnson. In came a barrage of poor crosses that failed to reach the target man. Johnson can’t cross a well known prescription, but what about Downing? The ex-Villa ace made his name for providing more crosses in the box. Liverpool had and have higher expectations for him.
5) Important to keep Bellamy fit: Now that Suarez is out of commission for over a month, Liverpool’s best chance of climbing up the table is to keep Bellamy and Gerrard fit. Downing had more shots on goal than any other Liverpool player apart from Suarez but he has yet to open his goal scoring account. And Dirk Kuyt is Dirk Kuyt. In that case putting money on Craig Bellamy is the safest bet.
P.S – Liverpool missed Lucas Leiva badly. In the reverse fixture, Lucas’s unbelievable engine and his overall dominance kept City midfielders (especially Toure and Silva) at bay. Unfortunately, Jay Spearing can never be his replacement.
Follow Saikat Mandal on twitter @Saikat_SAnchor