LIVERPOOL 1, MANCHESTER CITY 1
Controversial striker Mario Balotelli was sent off at blustery Anfield as a tired Manchester City held on for a draw to maintain their 5 point lead over Manchester United who also drew their game against Newcastle United on Saturday.
The Italian striker, who had only been on the pitch for 19 minutes after coming on as a second half substitute, was sent off for a second yellow card for a pair of needless fouls and attracted the ire of a furious Roberto Mancini as he walked off the pitch.
The game was played in the shadow of the news of the death of Wales manager Gary Speed who took his own life over the weekend. Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish had signed Speed while he was manager of Newcastle United and opted to leave Wales striker and former City forward Craig Bellamy out of the squad for the game at Anfield.
City, who had travelled to Anfield following their midweek defeat against Napoli, changed their full backs again with Gael Clichy and Micah Richards replacing Aleksandar Kolarov and Pablo Zabaleta. Gareth Barry, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri also came in for Nigel de Jong, Edin Dzeko, and Balotelli.
Despite City’s much vaunted attack, their defence had been under the spotlight this week and Mancini had also expressed his concern over City’s workload over the winter in recent weeks.
Vincent Kompany had put City into a 31st minute lead as City’s attack did indeed put Liverpool on the back foot. The Belgian defender was unchallenged as he left Glen Johnson and Dirk Kuyt in his wake to meet David Silva’s corner and nod the opener past Jose Reina in the Liverpool goal.
City fans’ celebrations were cut short as Liverpool levelled just a minute later from a bizarre own goal by Kompany’s defensive partner Joleon Lescott. Charlie Adam’s scuffed shot looked like it would go wide or be collected by Joe Hart but Lescott left his leg out and the ball took a wicked deflection that took it past a helpless Hart.
City looked tired towards the end of the first half and appeared to be suffering from a European hangover as Liverpool began to pressurise the visitors in the second half.
Luis Suarez in particular tormented the City defence who wilted under the torrent of attacks and were saved several times by the alertness of Joe Hart who was instrumental in protecting City’s unbeaten record.
City were still causing a threat on the break in the second half and were giving Liverpool a game until Balotelli was brought on to spice up the attack but only succeeded in getting himself sent off after just 19 minutes on the pitch forcing Mancini to abandon the chase for a winner although David Silva could have popped up with a late winner before he was withdrawn for Kolo Toure.
Hart had virtually the last word in the absorbing contest when he saved Liverpool sub Andy Carroll’s header with his feet.