Manchester City and Liverpool played out a dull scoreless draw at Eastlands today with neither side troubling the other enough to merit taking the three vital points on offer. Aston Villa and Tottenham were the day’s big winners as they further increased the pressure on their opponents in the race for fourth place with comprehensive wins over Burnley and Wigan respectively.
The game actually began at a relatively quick pace with Liverpool looking marginally more lively. This opening spell saw no real chances materialize for either team however, as both defences began to exert their control on the game and tt did not take long before the encounter descended into complete mediocrity as an utterly unremarkable first half played out.
The first decent chance of the game arrived only at the stroke of half-time when Martin Skrtel wasted a good opportunity by heading the ball wide from eight yards following a Steven Gerrard corner, despite finding himself unmarked in front of the City goal.
Heavy rain began to fall at Eastlands as the second half began and it seemed to wash away any hope for a decent game of football with it. Emmanuel Adebayor very nearly opened the scoring with a low drive from the edge of the area that Pepe Reina did well to save but this was to be one of very few moments of any note. Liverpool would have been furious to concede in such a fashion seeing that referee Peter Walton missed Adebayor clearly using his arm to bring the ball under control before shooting.
Efforts from both managers to break the deadlock came at roughly the hour mark when Rafael Benitez introduced the fit again Yossi Benayoun for the dismal Maxi Rodriguez and Roberto Mancini sent on Craig Bellamy following their midweek spat. The Welshman’s entry brought arguably the loudest cheer of the game as the City fans showed their backing for the striker.
The agony continued until the final 15 minutes when what may be the singlemost important determinant in terms of which side bags the last Champion’s League spot occurred as Fernando Torres made his return to the Liverpool frontline. The mercurial Spaniard was not able to break the dead lock in this game but all at Anfield will be hoping that his presence in upcoming games will be catalyst to a strong end to the season.
City had the better ‘chances’ of the final minutes as Adebayor was denied a goalscoring opportunity by a great interception from Skrtel and then went on to claim for a penalty following a challenge from Daniel Agger as the clock ticked down. Peter Walton shook his head however and hopes for at least some action to take away from the game were dashed.
In build up to this weekend’s action I alluded to the importance of this game for both clubs, not only in terms of the league points on offer but also the resultant confidence boost that victory would ensure as both sides looked to build momentum towards the end of the season. What the effect of such a dire game will have on either side is hard to foresee. For two teams with hopes of representing the Premier League in Europe’s finest competition next season to serve up such a poor encounter may be telling in terms of the standard of the Premier League at present. Both sides were bereft of ideas on how to win the game and managed a mighty two shots on target over the ninety minutes spell.
It was a game steeped in frustration for both sides. Steven Gerrard looked despondant and few could blame him as he suffered through sharing a pitch with Lucas Leiva and Maxi Rodriguez once again. Lucas has, at times, proven some form of worth to the Reds but todays performance ranked amongst one of his worst as he repeatedly relinquished possession. Since his January arrival, Maxi has been attrocious, today he looked totally off the pace and remained almost anonymous until put out of his misery through substitution. At one stage him and Gerrard even managed to run into one another during a rare counter attack. Its for the best that no microphone was nearby as the words that most likely came from the Liverpool skippers mouth would not be best fitting for a Sunday afternoon. Maybe the return of his buddy Fernando will put a smile back on his face and get him fully back to form.
One thing is for sure, if Liverpool do want to maintain hope of a Champion’s League spot next season they can ill afford such abject performances like this in the future. Likewise for city, who remain just one point ahead of the Merseysiders, albeit with a game in hand. The more pressing issue for both sides may be that they are still very much involved in a four horse race for the illustrious fourth spot with Aston Villa and Tottenham, who currently reside in the much desired position, proving equally as strong possibilities to deny them their wish.
Man City: Given, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Bridge, Wright-Phillips (Bellamy 68), Ireland (Ibrahim 75), De Jong, Barry, Adam Johnson, Adebayor.
Unused Subs: Taylor, Richards, Santa Cruz, Sylvinho, Toure,
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Insua, Mascherano, Lucas, Maxi (Benayoun 63), Gerrard, Babel (Torres 75), Kuyt (Aquilani 86)
Unused Subs: Cavalieri, Riera, Aurelio, Kelly.