MAN CITY 0, LIVERPOOL 1.
Roberto Mancini admitted the absence of key players contributed to Manchester City’s defeat by Liverpool in the first leg of the Carling Cup, semi-final.
The City manager was without the hugely influential Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and David Silva who usually provide the spine to the side.
“It is clear without three or four players it is very difficult. We don’t have them for one month and we cannot do anything about it,” he said.
City lacked the direction Kompany, Toure and Silva provide as they lost back-to-back home games against neighbours United and Liverpool in the space of three days having previously been unbeaten at the Etihad Stadium for over 12 months.
Mancini also thought fatigue had a bearing on their performance pointing out Liverpool had two extra days to prepare.
Even so, the City manager said he was satisfied with his side’s display.
He continued: “We played well and had chances, but didn’t score.
“We have played two difficult games, but didn’t deserve to lose both on them.”
Mancini added that he knew January would be a pivotal month with key fixtures and the absence of players.
And he says Liverpool must be considered favourites having won 1-0 away.
Mancini was annoyed with the foul by Glen Johnson on Joleon Lescott saying it was worse than the one which which resulted in Kompany’s sending off in the Manchester derby.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish described it as a “fantastic effort” from his players saying he could not fault the commitment and desire of his side.
He added there is no presuming the job is done adding the second leg will be difficult as City are a great team as shown by the fact they are leading the Barclays Premier League.
City, who made five changes to Sunday’s derby starting line up, could easily have been three down before Liverpool took the lead in the 13th minute.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart pulled off three superb saves to deny Andy Carroll, Steven Gerrard and Stewart Downing whose volley had goal written all over it when it left the left foot of the winger.
Liverpool’s pressure paid off when Stefan Savic, deputising for the suspended Kompany, fouled Daniel Agger and Gerrard was spot on from 12 yards.
City were struggling to find any rhythm or fluency to their play and Carroll flashed a header just wide as Liverpool came closer to adding a second goal.
It was only late in the half when Samir Nasri replaced the clearly unfit Mario Balotelli that City discovered a spark.
Nasri had City’s first clear-cut chance of the match in the 43rd minute as his long-range shot brought a decent diving save from Pepe Reina.
That was followed by chances for James Milner and Adam Johnson as City finished the opening period strongly.
City switched to three men at the back at the start of the second period, a tactic they used so effectively in Sunday’s Manchester derby after Kompany’s sending off.
And they were far more dangerous from the restart, though Liverpool almost handed City a goal from a dreadful Martin Kelly back pass which was intercepted by Sergio Aguero who, after rounding Reina, shot over from a tight angle.
Right-back Micah Richards had, surprisingly, been City’s best attacking player and he almost equalised on the hour with a close-range header which was well saved by Reina.
City brought on Edin Dzeko for the final quarter of the game as they looked for new ways to find a way to goal.
As the clock ticked down, City were struck by ever increasing pangs of desperation as they snatched at shots and attempted the impossible against a packed Liverpool defence.
Liverpool stood firm and, apart from an Aguero header in stoppage time which was just over, they were never seriously troubled as they protected their one-goal advantage for the home leg later this month.