Liverpool looked down and out even before Blue Moon had drained from the tannoys last night, with Mascherano doing a star-sulk and Ngog starting with Torres upfront. City too, seemed to have been set up in typical Mancini cautious fashion, but that it not how the formation on paper transferred to grass.
As it transpired, Gerrard sat too deep, Kuyt was lost out wide and City's seemingly defensive line-up strangled the life out of Liverpool's midfield in a blitz of controlled one-touch passing, which completely bypassed the harassed midfield men wearing red. The same old problems exist once again for the Scousers: 1.Lucas, Ngog, Babel are all too lightweight, 2. Carragher is becoming a slow old man and the rest of the defence cannot be trusted (Johnson appeared to be away with the fairies and Skrtel was roasted by Adam Johnson). 3. When Mascherano's not there and Torres is not fit, they are a flimsy proposition. 4. Ditto Gerrard, who seemed either unwilling or unable to carry Liverpool as he has so often in the past.
This is to take nothing away from City, who were magnificent; efficient in their short passing, tigerish in the tackle and, with Milner and Johnson, a complete and persistent menace down the flanks. The first goal typified the spirit and accuracy of the performance as a whole. Yaya Touré's fast feet, witnessed several times to general astonishment, at first failed to find a crack down Liverpool's left, so he turned back, preserving possession and gave it to Johnson, whose measured through ball found Milner breaking to the byline. A rapid and powerful cutback eluded the stretching Carragher and needed only a solid connection from Barry to shoot off his foot and into the corner. Delightful stuff.
|Kompany pursues Tevez after the second|
When Liverpool did find some momentum, they found Micah Ricards was dominating Jovanovic on the right (two thumping tackles and the Serb was looking to the sidelines asking when the bus was leaving) and that Kompany was continuing his bright start to the season in the middle. With Milner, Barry and the indefatigable De Jong tracking back, tackling hard and setting the Blues in motion once more, Liverpool had no time to find a foothold and were outplayed in every department.
The key was surely the side's ability to hold possession for sustained periods allover the pitch. Each player was comfortable on the ball, someone else was always available to help hold on to it and Liverpool spent energy and time chasing shadows. Johnson was a complete nightmare for Agger and Skrtel down the right and Milner and Barry combined effectively in midfield to harness a below par Gerrard and not-good-enough Lucas. Add to that the physical presence of Yaya Touré, the persistent tracking back of Tevez and the usual exemplary bulldog performance from De Jong and up to nine City players could rightfully have claimed the man of the match award last night. Only Kolo Touré and Lescott could have been described as adequate rather than outstanding.
For the Blue half of Manchester, thoughts of Steve Coppell, Phil Neal, Alan ball, Jason van Blerk, Tony Cunningham, Mike Walsh, Barry Siddall, Gordon Dalziel and the Whitely brothers need no longer lead to sleepless nights. The new dawn has arrived with a top 4 already taking ominous shape and a bottom four that, frighteningly for them, already includes Liverpool.