Home > Soccer/ Football > Manchester City 0-1 Liverpool: Reds take first leg of Carling Cup semi

Manchester City 0-1 Liverpool: Reds take first leg of Carling Cup semi

A Steven Gerrard penalty in the 13th minute was all Liverpool needed to take a 1-0 lead on aggregate as the Reds secured a 1-0 victory at Manchester City in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final.

City defender Stefan Savic fouled Daniel Agger in the box in the 11th minute when he outstretched his right foot out and brought it down onto the Denmark captain’s knee. Captain Steven Gerrard stepped up to the spot in the 13th minute ripped the ball into the bottom left corner. Keeper Joe Hart – who had already made a handful of excellent saves – guessed the right direction, but Gerrard’s strike had too much pace on the ball for the England international to get anything on it.

Liverpool – making almost wholesale changes from Friday’s 5-1 FA Cup third round win – came into the match firing, completely dominating the league leaders in the first half. In the 5th minute, Andy Carroll got passed Savic for a 1v1 with Hart, but his effort wasn’t placed very well and was saved by Hart.

Just six minutes later, Hart made another good save, this time on Gerrard. A cross played into the box was met by Captain Fantastic, who bent the ball with his right foot around a couple of players before it started to dip. Hart, outstretched to his left, got a hand on the shot just as it was nearing the ground and punched the ball away for a Liverpool corner.

On the ensuing play, Hart pulled out another world class save. Stewart Downing’s shot deflected off Carroll, and again Hart got low to punch the ball away.

The Reds, who lost midfielder Jay Spearing to a hamstring injury in the first half, created very little after Gerrard’s goal, bar a moment in the 35th minute. Martin Kelly played a good cross in for Carroll, who rounded Savic, but his header falling away from goal bounced out about a yard or two wide.

It took City until the 43rd minute to generate any sort of a threatening attack through Samir Nasri, who was subbed on for the injured Mario Balotelli 3 minutes earlier. The Frenchman turned Kelly twice before shooting the ball with his right foot. Pepe Reina came up with a good save of his own as the ball skipped dangerously off the wet turf.

Two minutes later, Micah Richards, given the armband in Vincent Kompany’s absence, outmuscled Glen Johnson along the byline. Johnson, normally a RB, was employed on the left by Kenny Dalglish, and was left for dead by the powerful Richards, who pulled a low cross back across the center of the box for James Milner, who scuffed a weak shot with the inside of his right foot high and wide.

The second half was a different story.

Despite a strong performance in the first half, Liverpool decided to sit back in the second, almost allowing City back into the match.

City had bucket-loads more possession than Liverpool, who benefitted greatly from the play of keeper Pepe Reina.

The 57th minute saw a bad back pass from Kelly feed Sergio Aguero for a 1v1 situation with Reina. Aguero tried to round the Spaniard, but Liverpool’s keeper made himself big, forcing Aguero to shoot over the bar from a tight angle.

Two minutes later, Richards drilled a header off a Milner corner, but Reina was there to collect for the Reds.

Aguero displayed some great ball skill in the 66th minute, drawing three Reds before cutting back inside to shoot. However, his shot was rather weak and straight at Reina.

By the 73rd minute, Liverpool became more defensive by shifting to a 5-4-1 with the introduction of Jose Enrique for Downing. Johnson went back to his natural position at RB, while Kelly shifted to CB, and Enrique played as a LB.

Dalglish continued the defensive tactics in the 80th minute with the introduction of Jamie Carragher to play as a holding mid, essentially having 4 CBs playing for the Reds.

Aguero had another chance in the 90th minute, but his flicked header off a Nasri cross looped onto the roof of the net.

Liverpool would hold on for the final three minutes added on for stoppages to pick up the 1-0 victory.

One talking point of the match was a tackle made by Glen Johnson on Joleon Lescott. Johnson left the ground with both feet, went airborne, and showed his studs to intercept the ball. On another day, Johnson might have been sent off much like Kompany was for City on Sunday.

City boss Roberto Mancini and Gerrard exchanged words in the tunnel about Mancini’s reaction to the foul, with the Liverpool captain saying, “”It surprises me because he had a go at Wayne Rooney. Now he’s had a go at one of ours.”

Mancini, on the other hand, said, “Steven Gerrard can say what he wants. I said what I think. That is what I am used to doing. It is not important what Steven Gerrard or the other players have said.

“It was worse,” Mancini said of Johnson’s tackle in comparison to Kompany’s in the FA Cup. “This tackle was worse. Gerrard came to me and said I said something. It was not for Johnson. It is for the tackle. This tackle was worse than Vinny’s. Everyone can see it.”

The return leg will be on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at Anfield. Kick-off is at 7:45 p.m. GMT. If Liverpool advance, it will be the club’s first cup final since the 2-1 loss in the 2007 Champions League final to AC Milan.

Starting XI: Reina; Kelly, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson; Henderson, Gerrard (C), Spearing, Downing; Bellamy, Carroll

Subs: Doni, Enrique, Coates, Kuyt, Carragher, Adam, Shelvey.

Man of the Match: Steven Gerrard. The match wasn’t Gerrard’s best outing, but his penalty was brilliantly taken to beat Joe Hart, who had an excellent performance himself.

Needs to do better: Stewart Downing. Downing only played 60 minutes, but the thing that stood out was his lack of movement. In the 37th minute, for example, Downing did well to release Johnson on the wing, but failed to move into space to draw a defender away and/or give Johnson an outlet. Instead, he opted to stand there with his hands on his hips, putting Johnson in a difficult position.

Side note: Steven Gerrard’s penalty was his fourth goal of the season in all competitions, tying him for third with Carroll and Maxi Rodriguez, despite making just 10 appearances due to injury. Luis Suarez (8) and Craig Bellamy (6) are the only two players to have scored more times this season.

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