Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Dossena
Benayoun Mascherano Lucas Riera
More heart stoppers and late heroics, but it’s not enough this time. And it’s probably the nail in the coffin.
You know the routine by now. This is just the draw that seals it.
Dominant, but insipid in the final third, for the first half. For all the possession, City even had the best chance through Ireland in the 30th. Liverpool started the second half on the back foot and fell victim to a massively unlucky deflection on (who else) Bellamy’s shot. And City kept Liverpool on the back foot until the final 15 minutes as the home side’s passing devolved. Kuyt gave a lifeline in the 78th, and it looked like Liverpool might snatch another victory from the jaws of a draw, but for all the late pressure, no such luck this time.
Throughout the first half, Liverpool just couldn’t find the finishing touch. Benayoun and Torres were lively, but the home side didn’t create enough from the flanks, and couldn’t get past Dunne and Onuoha. Riera, usually the release valve out wide, cut in too often giving room for Dossena to overlap, which rarely came to fruition. At the same time, I’m not sure why Kuyt played centrally with Benayoun wide while the opposite had worked well previously. And despite all the pressure, the best chance came from a League One-esque goal mouth scramble in the 23rd, but none of Torres, Kuyt, or Riera could apply the finishing touch.
And Liverpool almost paid for it in the 30th when – surprise, surprise – City broke. Robinho scampered down the left and slide it through for Ireland (who started the move), but the midfielder could only shoot straight at Reina and then into the side netting.
Liverpool didn’t heed the warning, and it didn’t take long after the restart to go behind. City had almost all the possession before scoring, but compare four minutes of sustained pressure to 45 unfulfilled and it’s a bit frustrating. It might even go down as an own goal as well – that shot doesn’t hit Arbeloa’s foot, it doesn’t go in. But them's the breaks.
The next 30 minutes were eminently frustrating as City stayed on top, making it hard for Liverpool to break out of their own half. Both Ireland and De Jong weren’t far away with shots from distance before Ireland had the ball in the net on the break only to be rightfully ruled offside.
Two substitutions – El Zhar for Riera and Aurelio for Dossena – helped Liverpool reassert a foothold as Aurelio’s passes succeeded at a far better rate and El Zhar was much more of a pacey outlet out wide. And in the 78th, Liverpool pulled one back as Benayoun charged down the left and crossed for Torres, whose mishit shot set Kuyt up perfectly to strike from close range.
But in the last 10 minutes, Given saved well from Kuyt and Benayoun, Kuyt dragged a shot wide, and Aurelio blasted a volley over. Benayoun’s was the best chance – in the 85th, the Israeli blasted a knockdown straight at Given when either side would have been a goal. No such luck. No brilliance from Torres or any other late magic. Just a depressing end to another draw at Anfield and the lingering hope of challenging for a title.
At the end of the day, sadly, Liverpool just weren’t, and aren’t, good enough. This’ll sting for a while.