Yawn. It wasn’t as bad of a performance as the 0-0 draw against Villa, the tempo of the game was a bit livelier, but it was nowhere near lively enough, and neither team did enough to get onto the scoresheet.
It was in line with past performances against City. As said in the preview, the last four were all very narrow 1-0 wins; this season’s game at Anfield was on pace for 0-0 until a Barton mistake allowed Kuyt to set up Gerrard for a very well-taken goal. The only difference this time is neither team made the mistake that allowed the other a breakthrough, nor did one come up with that moment of brilliance needed to break the deadlock.
The game is pretty much summed up by the fact that Liverpool’s best chance of the first half was Alonso’s speculative effort from his own half that narrowly went over the bar. In fact, Liverpool had no shots on goal for the entire first half. Neither did Manchester City. Says about enough right there.
The second half started better, with Liverpool creating a couple of opportunities through Gerrard (including an honest-to-goodness shot on goal) before Riise sent a low shot wide of the far post and Agger sent another speculative effort well to the left. It was pretty clear that Benitez had told his team at halftime to get more shots off, but neither the goal nor a definitive opportunity came.
In fact, City really had the better of the chances throughout the game, the best being when Beasley cut onto his right foot after a weak Reina punch came to him and cannoned his shot onto the crossbar in the 75th minute. The home fans will also rue a possible penalty not given for what looked to be an incidental handball on Carragher (among other things that Rennie appeared to miss). Of course, you could also say that Barton’s reckless two-footed lunge at Gerrard could have been straight red, but there you go. A draw is probably the fair result.
No one really stood out, and no one was poor either. I thought once again that Mascherano looked very handy. He sees the game very well, covers the entire width of the field, and knows how to put in a tackle. He’s still picking up silly bookings now and then, but once he gets used to the pace and style of refereeing in the Premier League (not that Rennie has a discernible style), he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.
And once again, Carragher was the heart of the defense. Vassell was a handful; he gave Arbeloa fits at times and he gave City a good outlet on the counter when they attacked. But Carragher was frequently there to cut out any and all danger, and aside from the handball claim(s), was absolutely typically solid.
Offensively, players did not do enough, but there were good moments for Pennant, Kuyt, Alonso, Gerrard, and Riise, even if they let down at others. Pennant especially; even if it wasn’t to the level of some of his recent performances, it was still a decent outing, and he’s getting better every time out in a Liverpool shirt. One thing stood out as well. In the 5th minute, Pennant had a chance to be through on goal with Michael Ball half-heartedly clinging to his jersey. Instead of going to ground and possibly earning a penalty, he stayed up and tried to get a shot off, which should be praised even if the effort ended up soft and easily claimed by Isaksson. And this also goes some way in summing up the game; it wasn’t a dire or infuriating performance, there were some positives to take away even if the end product was disappointing.
City played for the draw and Liverpool went along with it. Yes, it’s not encouraging that we’ve now got yet another example of not being able to break lesser teams down away from Anfield, but it’s certainly not the end of the world. Liverpool historically has had trouble at this venue. They are now two points ahead of Arsenal with 5 games remaining, seven ahead of Bolton in 5th with a game in hand. Champions League football for next season is nearly secured, and even though there’s work to be done, 3rd place is readily achievable. Five more games in the league to end the campaign on a high note.
Boro on Wednesday.