Mario Balotelli stole the headline from what was a fantastic game at Anfield. The Italian striker has been the most talked about football player since he moved to Manchester City. He has become an obsession to sports writers. His talent is not in doubt but his temperament and maturity has been repeatedly questioned. In my opinion, I think he was sent off because his reputation preceded him.
Martin Atkinson was too quick to judge Balotelli’s intention, the second yellow card would probably not have been given if the game was being played at the Etihad stadium. The roar of disapproval from Liverpool’s supporters following the infringement influenced the referee to take action against Balotelli.
On the pitch, Liverpool did what most teams have failed to do this season, they out-played Man City. David Silva was edged out of the game as Liverpool midfielders did not allow him time on the ball. The midfielders were quick to win the ball leaving City defenders exposed to a barrage of offensive play.
It’s unfortunate that Craig Bellamy was not in the right frame of mind to play in this game following the death of his national team coach Gary Speed. The Welsh winger would have provided Liverpool with a potent threat from the flanks and I reckon with him in the team, Liverpool would have won this game.
I am sure other EPL managers watched this match with interest, Man City has been an enigma this season. They have demolished other teams with no mercy. After beating Man United at Old Trafford, they sent shivers across the league. However, Liverpool managed to stop them in their tracks and almost beat them. Despite dumping Arsenal out of the Carling Cup quarter finals, I still think City is a team of two halves—they are mesmerising going forward but suspect at the back.
Joleon Lescott is not a world class defender while Vincent Company is a midfielder turned defender. Gael Clichy and Micah Richards are also not convincing. If it were not for Joe Hart’s superb saves, City would have lost to Liverpool by a few goals.
The challenge now for Roberto Mancini will be to rally his side for the battle in the next few weeks. As potential exit from the Champions League beckons, big league matches against Chelsea and Arsenal will also follow suit in the next few weeks. Mancini and his team should be prepared to be tested especially now that Liverpool has provided a perfect blueprint of how to play them.
Newcastle held United at Old Trafford in a game that was shrouded with complaints from Sir Alex Ferguson following the awarding of a controversial penalty to Newcastle which allowed the Magpies to level the score. Despite Ferguson having been quoted saying he will not reinforce his squad in January, I think it’s becoming inevitable that he will have to look around for a creative midfielder or a striker.
If he goes for a striker, Wayne Rooney can drop to midfield as long as there’s a proven striker ahead of him. Javier Hernandez has not been as clinical as he was last season, Danny Welbeck’s fitness is also not guaranteed and Dimitar Berbatov is still suspect.
I found it quite interesting that Arsene Wenger blamed fatigue as the cause of Arsenal’s draw against Fulham. I think he messed up his selection, Gervinho should have started ahead of Andre Arshavin and I have said this a number of times, I think Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey should be dropped, the two have been very poor.
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