Verdict: Manchester City 3 Liverpool 0
- Goals: Barry 13, Tevez 51 and 67 pen.
City got their home campaign off to a fantastic start with this 3-0 demolition of a Liverpool side that is considered a rival for the Champions League places. Scoring early in each half enabled City to take control of the game in a grip they never allowed to weaken.
This was particulary good given the presence of Sheikh Mansour in the stands overlooking his massive investment for the first time. Initially there was a terrible fear that ‘typical City’ would rear itself against the canny Roy Hodgson. Thankfully Mancini and the players had other ideas.
“The owner was very happy. It was the first time he saw City and we beat Liverpool so it was a good night.
Both managers sprung surprises in their line-ups. Roberto Mancini retained his three midfield destroyers in de Jong, Barry and Yaya Toure. However there was a change in position with Yaya crucially playing higher up the field.
Micah Richards earned a slightly surprising recall at right-back after his struggles against Gareth Bale. It proved to be arguably his best night in a City shirt since the days of Sven as he thoroughly dominated Jonvanovic.
With Lescott proving equally formidable in dealing with Kuyt, Liverpool had no effective wide men.
Roy Hodgson’s tactical surprise was to play 4-4-2 against City’s crowded midfield and it proved as successful as it had for Fabio Capello at the World Cup. Gerrard was to busy chasing our trio to get forward and link with Torres.
El Nino looked like a player just returning from injury and had no understanding with Ngog. Or should that be City’s defence gave them no time to build an understanding.
Kolo Toure and Kompany are both at the top of their game, taking up good positions and making telling interceptions time and again. Both are comfortable on the ball, happy to bring it out of defence, and this is a quality not seen in City centre-halves for a long time.
With de Jong and Barry in front there was no space for Liverpool to find their forwards through the middle. This pressure was maintained throughout the game and enabled City to make Liverpool look worse than they necessarily are.
For all the talk of new signings taking time to gel, it’s worth noting that only two were on display in this match. Yaya Toure is a natural for the Premier League and James Milner is a veteran of it despite being only 24.
The more remarkable thing was this rock solid defensive line being made up of players available last season to Mark Hughes. The difference with Mancini is that in true Italian style he both knows how to organise a defensive unit, and then has the confidence to put his faith in it.
For City fans this is taking a bit of getting used to. Only after the third goal did City dominate possession. Prior to that Mancini appeared content to rely on our ability to resist the opposition for periods. This is not a tactic that sits easily with many City fans and the tension is quite discernable.
Mancini has relied on the defence before, notably at Tottenham last week. The key difference here was that when we gained possession there were outlets. Both Milner and Yaya offer greater physical strength in holding off the opposition.
Then there was a better display of retaining possession higher up the field. Tevez has a great touch when the ball is played into his feet. Adam Johnson rarely gives the ball away, electing to pass sideways or back rather than run into a blind alley.
Yaya set the tone in seeing 36 of 37 passses successfully completed. The number of bodies in City’s midfield allowed us to play passing triangles and had Liverpool chasing shadows. The team was gelling before our eyes.
This was best illustrated in the opening goal, where Yaya initially danced into the penalty area before laying the ball back to de Jong when nothing was on. De Jong fed Johnson who worked a position to play in Milner. His cut-back was fast and accurate, enabling Gareth Barry to provide a composed sidefoot into the corner. This was the famed tiki-taki passing of Barca and Spain played out in light blue!
Barry’s obvious delight at being set up by his former Villa team-mate was quite touching as they celebrated together. It was certainly a performance reminiscent of his best days at Villa Park.
We probably created a lot less chances than Tottenham created against us. The difference is we were ruthless, scoring at the perfect times. Any concerns about the line-up lacking a presence up front were vanquished by the early goal. From then on we could attack as we pleased.
Once again we defended corners well with Mancini’s zonal marking system. How ironic for those critics of Rafa’s use of the system that Liverpool then conceded from a corner using Hodgson’s man-to-man system.
Richards is a nearly man in terms of scoring for City. Twice last year he had goals harshly chalked off by the referee and here Tevez claimed the final touch after Micah’s superb leap sent the ball goalwards.
Adam Johnson finally showed he could last for ninety minutes and the penalty he won from a needless lunge by Skrtel was just rewards for an excellent performance. Tevez blasts his penalties with confidence, but doesn’t have quite the precision of Elano and may come unstuck one day. Hopefully not when it really matters.
“The mentality is important. If we go onto the pitch with a good mentality we can do anything. We can beat every team.
“I am happy tonight because we have beaten a strong side like Liverpool who can fight for the title this year.”
This was a fantastic result that moves us into the top four alongside Chelsea, Arsenal and United. Now let’s hope we can stay there.