After the disappointment of Napoli its back to the bread and butter of the Premier League and today we go to Anfield to play Liverpool. Yesterday, United had dropped points at home to Newcastle with a 1-1 draw which left us 4 points clear at the top of the table so a win today could see us go 7 points clear at the top. Being a blue you get used to disappointment, wasn't an option, because disappointment were all we'd had for a long time but things had been good recently, but i couldn't help thinking before the game that today may be the day I was disappointed again. United dropping points had given us a chance to open up a gap, not just over them, but also over the resurgent Spurs who were on a great run that could see them move into second with their game in hand, so is this a chance that we would mess up or was it History clouding my judgement ? Today was also Mancini's birthday, so 3 points would mean a very nice present for him. We'd got our arse handed to us at Anfield last season, I feared the same happening again today. I know we never win at White heart lane and we had. I know we never beat Everton and we had, and I'm not even going to get into our Old Trafford record, but for some reason, today, i just feared the worse.
Four hours before kick off my fears were put into perspective when the news broke that the Welsh Manager and Premier League legend, Gary Speed had died, aged 42. What relevance does football have in the grand scheme of things when two boys have lost their father in such horrific circumstances. I have no connection to Gary Speed, he never played for my Club or my Country but the news really rattled me, shocked me so much. Left me feeling hollow. I watched as it unfolded on Sky Sports News and all over my Twitter and Facebook feeds. So were we to lose today. Yes we dropped points, yes we fail to capitalize on United mistakes, But maybe Shankly was wrong, it isn't life or death and it is No where near as important as we sometime pretend it to be. Watching the tribute before the Swansea vs Aston Villa game, hearing Howard Wilkinson talk about Speed and watching Shay Given in tear before the game, puts the whole thing in perspective and me shiver.
But the game went a head, and the City team changed again to the team from midweek. Hart of course started in goal, his back four being Richards, Kompany, Lescott & Clichy, the midfield would be sured up by Yaya &Barry with Milner, Silva, Nasri & Aguero the attacking threat. News was that Craig Bellamy had withdrawn from the Liverpool squad after the news of his International Managers death. A lot had been made recently about top flight teams with unbeaten runs. Newcastle obviously losing theirs to us last weekend and this weekend Barcelona and Glasgow Rangers lost to. Still had a feeling that today would be the day we lost ours. There was another goose bump inducing minutes silence before our game.
The game started with both teams trying to set a high tempo, City having more possession in the first 10 minutes pressing Liverpool back, or were they planning on hitting us on the break ? The formation looked more 4-4-2 with Milner and Nasri wide and Silva higher up with Sergio. 12 minutes in and Kompany picks up a yellow for a challenge on Suarez, who seems to spend a lot of the time on the floor, not good to get booked and have to mark him for the rest of the game. 15 minutes gone and we hadn't created anything to threaten the Liverpool goal for our possession, but neither had they to threaten ours. The first half chance came when a short back pass saw Reina come racing from his goal to clear just before Agureo could get to it. 20 minutes Adam's dives onto the floor looking for a free kick, the ref wasn't fooled and Aguero broke into the Liverpool box only to tie himself in knots and fall over. We were playing the better football and putting pressure on the Liverpool back four, but still not creating chances on goal. Liverpool started to come into the game a little but on the half hour Captain Kompany rose at the near post from a David Silva corner to guide the ball home and put us 1-0 up from probably our first effort on target. From the restart Barry picked up a yellow that ruled him out of the Arsenal Carling cup tie (our next game) and then straight away, a nothing shot from Charlie Adam was deflected into his own goal by Lescott to even it up. Back to square one, i still think it's going to be one of those days. 1-1, Ninety seconds between the goals with 33 minutes gone. Suarez was sticking to his usual tactic of falling over every time someone breathed on him but luckily the ref didn't seem to be buying it. The equalizer lifted them and on 37 minutes Joe Hart produced a brilliant save with his feet from a thunderous Charlie Adam effort. 38 minutes and a curling effort from Glenn Johnson sailed just wide. The own goal had us rattled. The game seemed to settle again and we composed ourselves with the next chance coming from City as Aguero brought a save from Reina right on the half time whistle. The half ending 1-1, all set up for an interesting second half.
After a bright few minutes at the beginning of the second half it was Liverpool who had the first chance on 48 minutes when confusion in the defence looked like it might cost us, but it cost us nothing more than a corner in the end. It looked like Mancini had pushed Yaya further forward to. The first 10 minutes of the second half were a pretty even affair, again with no team managing to muster any clear cut chances on goal. Aguero wasn't offering much to the game but i think it was more down to service and support rather than his form. It was crying out for Balotelli to come and either replace him or for him to play off. 64 minutes gone and that's exactly what happened, Baloteli on for Nasri. A clever corner from Liverpool on 66 minutes and Downing Brings a great save from Joe Hart. It was turning into a good contest between 2 good teams but it was all happening in the congested Midfield. Both teams were just looking for that bit of magic or that killer pass to open up the opposition defence, and on 73 minutes suarez nearly found it, beating Richards to play the ball across goal, Lescott cleared it but it bounced of Kuyt and so nearly crept in. a minute later Milner was played in by a lose header back by Adam, but again Reina raced off his line to stop us. As we approached the 80th minute Liverpool were growing more and more confident and creating chances and that feeling i'd had about this being the day for disappointment was rising again. Balotelli hadn't really offered much, apart from his swanky blonde hair doo, and we looked rocky as wave after wave of Liverpool attack bombarded our goal. 82 minutes and Dzeko replaced Aguero, probably for holding the ball up better than we had been. But then it all went pear shaped as Balotelli earned himself a second yellow card to get himself sent off. He went into a challenge wit Skertel and because he led with his arm, the ref brandished the yellow. Balotelli never looked in the direction of the player he was looking at the ball at all time so to me a little harsh, but as soon as the challenge was made you knew what was going to happen. 88th minute and were hanging on, Suarez bringing another save from Hart. 89th minute and good work from Dzeko to out run the defence and pay in Silva, but he delayed and delayed until his weak shot was cleared off the line. Silva made way for Kolo on 90 minutes and this was going to be the longest 3 minutes of injury time ever. We were obviously now playing for our point. Minute to go and another outstanding save from Hart denied Carroll. The whistle saved us and our unbeaten record but this had been a proper battle, our five point lead was restored.
At the beginning of the day I'd feared the worst, so i was more than happy with a point at Anfield. Silva hadn't been able to influence the game as he usually does, Agureo and Nasri hadn't really contributed and City's Man of the Match, without doubt was Joe Hart. Without him this could have been embarrassing but i guess that's why he is England's number 1. It was a highly entertaining draw for a neutral, but as a City fan it was heart wrenching. At the end of the season i hope that we can look back at a well earned important point in a game that in the past we probably would have thrown away. Without doubt teams will come to Anfield this season and lose so i personally was more than happy with a point. Next up now on Tuesday Is Arsenal in the Carling Cup at the Emirate stadium, obviously without Barry and Balotelli. The season was begining to get very interesting. Overall from today though, my heart goes out to the family of Gary Speed, and had we crumbled under Liverpool's pressure and lost, it would have been insignificant compared to that. Thanks for reading. R.I.P Gary Speed.