English Premier League
Tuesday 3 January 2012, 20.00 KO
City: Hart, Richards, K Toure, Kompany (c), Clichy, Barry, Y Toure, Milner, Silva (Lescott 76), Aguero (A Johnson 73), Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Savic, de Jong
Goals: Aguero (11), Y Toure (33), Milner (pen 75)
Sent Off: Barry
Referee: Michael Jones
Man of the Match: Vincent Kompany
The game began tentatively, with both sides feeling each other out in the rain at The Etihad Stadium. It was the visitors who had the first chance to take the lead, as Downing found himself through on goal with just Hart to beat. The England keeper was off his line quickly and made a brilliant block, to keep the scores level – and it turned out to be a very crucial save. Minutes later, at the other end, Aguero took a pot-shot from the edge of the box and Reina made a hash of it, letting the shot straight though him and into the back of the net.
Aguero had a cheeky attempt for his second, a minute and a half later, but his chip didn’t quite have the legs to get past Reina, before there was a let off with the Liverpool defence. Dzeko, with no support, took a shot on from the edge of the box; it took a huge deflection and spiralled just wide of the post, with the visiting goalkeeper having dived the other way, reacting to the first effort.
Charlie Adam was felled on the edge of the City box by Kolo Toure, as he looked to beat the City defender, but the resulting free kick was smashed into the wall. Reina then made up for his earlier mistake by denying Kompany City’s second, pushing the centre-back’s header over the bar from a corner. But he couldn’t keep out Yaya Toure’s effort from the next flag kick, as the midfielder nodded the ball past him and into the back of the net.
With half time approaching, Barry went into the book for a late challenge on Henderson. It wasn’t a popular decision, but probably the correct call after he caught the Liverpool midfielder after the ball had gone.
The second half began with the visitors pressing the home side’s goal – if they were going to get back into the game, they needed to score quickly. Carroll, though, wasn’t getting much joy against Kompany, who was winning the ball both in the air and on the deck. Milner clashed with Johnson in a challenge that left both players needing attention, but both were fine to continue.
But then, just as City were on the backfoot and the visitors were pressing, Barry gave Agger a nudge as the defender stepped around him. They were side to side and the Liverpool defender went down, and Barry earned a second yellow card with just under 20 minutes to play. It was soft, but equally it was a silly challenge to make, having not been punished for a couple of similar challenges earlier.
If that dampened the City spirits, though, the fans were lifted almost immediately. Yaya Toure broke from his own half with the ball and worked his way into the box. There, he went down as Skrtel tackled and the referee pointed to the spot. It looked very soft, however, with the defender making a clumsy challenge and Milner stepped up, finding the top corner.
With ten minutes to play, it could have been better for the blues, as Adam Johnson stuck the post with an effort from outside the box, before Gerard shot from the edge of the box. Hart dived for it, but it was off target, just missing the angle of post and bar. Then, in stoppage time, a great double save from Hart kept his clean sheet, as he blocked from Bellamy and got up to deny Maxi Rodriguez from the rebound. It was a good response to some poor Christmas form.