English Premier League
Sunday 27 November 2011, 16.00 KO
City: Hart, Richards, Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Y Toure, Barry, Milner, Silva (K Toure 90), Nasri (Balotelli 65), Aguero (Dzeko 82)
Unused: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, de Jong, A Johnson
Goals: Kompany (31)
Booked: Kompany, Barry, Balotelli, Milner
Sent Off: Balotelli
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the Match: Joe Hart
Liverpool started quickly, trying to get the visitors under pressure, but it was the away side that soon took control of the opening exchanges. Clichy and Silva were causing problems down the left flank and the first corner of the game was hooked goalwards by Kompany. It was nodded back across goal and Yaya Toure had a volley, sliced just over the bar on his wrong foot. The hosts presented Silva with the ball on the edge of the box, but he was crowded out, after Aguero couldn’t wriggle through.
A short backpass to Reina almost put Aguero clean through on goal, but the Liverpool goalkeeper was off his line sharply to slide the ball away from the City striker. There were appeals of handball from the visiting players, but the referee waved them away. It hit the keeper’s hand, but it would have been harsh to penalise him as it deflected back at him from the forward.
City could have taken the lead on 20 minutes as they broke away from the Liverpool attack – Adam wanted a foul in the centre circle, but the referee didn’t give it and Silva broke away. He slid Aguero into the box, who tied the defender in knots, but he slipped at the crucial moment and couldn’t cut the ball back from the by-line. Nasri then couldn’t find Aguero in the box, after he’d been put through by Silva.
Just after the half hour mark, though, the visitors took the lead. A corner was well won by Silva when he had few other options available to him. The Spaniard took it and found Kompany unmarked on the edge of the six yard box. He threw his head at it and flicked it into the top corner, via his left shoulder.
But, immediately, Liverpool were level. A huge deflection off Joleon Lescott sent a Charlie Adam shot straight past Hart and down the centre of the goal, as the England keeper was moving the other way to cover the first effort. The original shot was off target and City were on the receiving end of a big slice of bad luck.
Hart was then alert to block a Charlie Adam effort from the edge of the box, after Kuyt had gone one-on-one with Clichy and been forced wide. The breakaway was quick, but the England keeper left a foot in the right place to deflect the ball over the bar. Suarez volleyed the resulting corner well over the bar and Johnson curled a shot around Hart’s post, as the visitors needed to settle after the shock of the sudden equaliser.
After City looked for the first chance of the second half, it was Henderson who had the opportunity to shoot, but he decided to try and juggle the ball onto his right foot on the edge of the box. It was cleared by the defence and Adam had the chance to hit, but Richards was in to block and Clichy conceded the corner from Suarez’s low cross.
A brilliant ball across the box by Clichy almost found Aguero on the hour mark, but Jose Enrique was there to concede the corner before the Argentine could connect. City looked for a second attack as the corner was cleared, but Milner was wrongly penalised for handball and the hosts had the ball back. Barry was then in the right place to block a Liverpool cross, as the game became end-to-end.
City were slack at picking up the home players from a Liverpool corner and Downing was able to get an effort on goal away from the edge of the box. It bounced off the ground and might have looped in, but for a good save from Hart, pushing the ball over the bar. Balotelli then chased down Agger as he had the ball in the box and Aguero nearly cut out the backpass to Reina, but the Liverpool keeper just got the ball away.
Enrique slipped at the crucial moment as he tried to intercept a Silva ball to Balotelli on the Liverpool right, but as the Italian attempted to break into the space, he slipped, too and the ball ran back to Reina. Clichy then had to block from Downing to concede a corner, before a spell on pinball in the City six yard box could have gone anywhere, but it bounced behind for a goal kick. Reina was then dispossessed by Milner, but he couldn’t get to the ball before the Liverpool defence to get a shot away.
Balotelli picked up a yellow card for a cynical foul on Johnson as he broke away and, from the resulting free kick, Skrtel almost caused more havoc in the City area with some more pinball as the ball deflected off blue and red shirts, but straight into Hart’s hands. Downing was able to get a volley on goal from the corner of the six yard box, but he missed the target and Kuyt couldn’t touch it in.
Balotelli was then given a second yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Skrtel as the ball as the two jumped for the ball. Skrtel was caught with his arm over the shoulder and neck, but there was very little in it and it was perhaps harsh. Liverpool looked to immediately exploit their man advantage by introducing Carroll to the game.
Suarez could have put the hosts ahead with three minutes to play as he broke in behind Lescott, but Hart got across his goal well to push the ball behind for a corner, before headers from Milner and Barry got the ball away. Dzeko then broke down the line and found Silva free in the middle, he took the ball around Reina, but his effort was too weak to beat the three defenders on the line.
With a minute of stoppage time to play, Joe Hart pulled off one of the saves of the season, as he first pushed away Carroll’s header, before getting up quickly to block from Suarez. The resulting rebound was blazed over the bar by Downing. And it turned out to be a point preserving save, as it was the last action of the match.