Manchester City were fortunate to escape with a point after being taken apart by a great performance from Liverpool
What a match that was. Absolutely superb entertainment. Manchester City were thoroughly outplayed for large spells of it and will be hugely grateful to have escaped with a point, but it keeps them nine points behind Manchester United. At least Yaya Toure is on his way back. For Liverpool, it's another 2-2 draw away to a big side. They should have won but they can be highly satisfied with how they played. With Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge together in attack, the future looks very bright for Liverpool indeed. Thanks for your emails. I'm off for a lie-down.
That's your lot!
90 min+6: One last chance for Liverpool. Johnson slides a pass down the right for Suarez, whose shot is deflected wide by Skrtel. Hart flaps again at the corner but City get it clear and...
90 min+3: Aguero pokes it through to Maicon on the right and his cross towards Dzeko is put behind by Skrtel. The corner is a waste.
90 min+2: Daniel Sturridge, comfortably the best player on the pitch, is booed as he's replaced by Joe Allen. He applauds the City fans with a smirk on his face. There's a certain irony to City fans criticising a footballer's greed, isn't there? I'm sure it's not lost on them.
90 min+1: There will be five minutes of added time.
90 min: Joe Hart does save one from distance this time! On the edge of the area, Sturridge toepokes a fierce effort with his left foot towards the bottom-left corner. Hart gets down to push it out. That's a top save. Agger reaches the rebound and finds Suarez who wins a corner. It's cleared.
88 min: Samir Nasri replaces Gareth Barry.
87 min: Can City do it again? Milner curls in another corner and Maicon nuts it over from six yards out. Close.
85 min: Johnson shoots well over from distance. Meanwhile the rarely-spotted Samir Nasri is going to grace us with his presence. "Message for Rob Stewart," says Rod Stewart. "I'm in Montserrat, West Indies."
84 min: "Another two "unstoppable" screamers beat Hart from outside the box today, how many is that this season?" says Bernard Walsh. "I'm amazed that every team that plays City don't shoot on sight, Hart is pretty poor at dealing with shots from distance largely because of poor foot work."
That's unfair. These were two goals of the very highest quality. Not even Jussi Jaaskelainen could have saved them.
83 min: This is a barmy game. Fabulous stuff. On the right Suarez gets past Clichy. His cross is cleared as far as Gerrard. Surely not again? Correct, his volley is blocked and City attack but Aguero loses the ball on the break. "This Lucas chap is a better player than first meets the eye isn't he," says Gary Naylor. "And Reina is much worse." Imagine if Barcelona do buy him.
82 min: Agger shoots from 35 yards out. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.
80 min: Dang! "I follow the MBM, but I am Rob Stewart...," says Rob not Rod Stewart. "Not quite the same thing... I am in Koh phangan thailand, bound to be more exciting here than wherever that good for nothing rod stewart is...."
Ok, start playing the circus music now. Take nothing away from Aguero's magnificent improvisation but what was Reina playing at? He really is an overrated chancer. A ball was played over the top of the reconfigured Liverpool defence and Aguero reached it first on the right of the area. He had a fair bit to do but Reina made it a bit easier for him by charging off his line. Aguero knocked it past him and then, from a quite ludicrous angle, he chipped the ball into the empty net.
77 min: This was almost game over. Gerrard whips in a corner from the left and Sturridge's header skims just wide. Skrtel almost got on the end of it in the six-yard box too.
75 min: Liverpool make their first change, Martin Skrtel on for Jose Enrique.
74 min: Maicon is on for David Silva.
2005 has just called, it wants its players back. This is classic Gerrard. Liverpool attacked again and a ball was only cleared as far as Gerrard, 25 yards from goal. He chested it down and it sat up for the volley, which he rammed past Hart and into the bottom-left corner with his right foot! That was rather like his goal for England against Germany in Munich in 2001, I'll have you know. The champions are behind. That might be the first Steven Gerrard goal celebrated by Manchester United fans. It would have helped if someone had bothered closing Gerrard down.
71 min: Javi Garcia is booked for a cynical trip on Suarez in the centre circle.
70 min: The fear for Liverpool is that their moment will slip away from them. You would expect City to have more belief as the game enters the final 20 minutes.
68 min: But so do City. Milner, their best player today, flashes a low cross in from the right but no one can get a telling touch on the ball, which fizzes across the face of goal and away from danger.
67 min: Henderson, Lucas and Gerrard have completely dominated Barry and Garcia in midfield. Is that news? Meanwhile Downing cuts in from the right and drills a low shot wide. Liverpool know this is there for the taking.
65 min: Oh, Aguero's back. And he announces his return with a cracking 60-yard run, speeding away from Lucas and into the area - but he just overruns it. That was looking like it was going to be one of The Great Goals. Moments later Silva almost plays Aguero in but Enrique is there to clear.
63 min: "So Rod Stewart follows the MBM?" says Simon McMahon. "Maybe you could commission him to do the official MBM song? Or get fellow Celtic fan Snoop Dogg / Lion / Zebra or whatever to do it."
Lutz could be Bez.
62 min: Aguero is off getting treatment, allowing your knackered minute-by-minute reporter a moment's peace. But not for long. Downing swerves a pass to Suarez with the outside of his left foot. From the left, he opens up his body and curls a shot a couple of yards wide of the far post.
61 min: The City fans cheer ironically after Agger puts the ball out of play with Aguero down clutching his shoulder.
59 min: Can all games be like this? City have finally stepped it up and are starting to turn the screw. Silva darts into the area and Carragher has to stop him with a last-ditch challenge at the expense of a corner. Liverpool get it clear.
58 min: "There was contact," says Robert McKenna. "You are wrong, sir." Hmm, you could be right. But not enough to send Sturridge down and I think he knew because he apologised.
57 min: Carragher is booked after steaming into the back of Aguero. He's shown his age there, all right. "Talking about encroaching walls, why don't refs in the EPL use a little spray can to mark where the ball and wall should be for a free kick, as they do in the MLS?" says Richard Armitage. "There isn't a whole lot that I like about the MLS but this does seem to be a very good idea, it certainly stops walls moving forward before the kick is taken."
56 min: Roberto Mancini switches to a back three, replacing Nastasic with Kolarov.
55 min: Sturridge lets fly from the edge of the area and almost knocks out whichever City defender blocked it. They all look the same.
54 min: Only United, Dortmund and Real Madrid have played as well as this at the Etihad this season. Downing takes on Clichy again on the right but his low ball evades everyone in the middle. This is so impressive from Liverpool.
53 min: Anthony Taylor wins back some favour with the City fans by booking Sturridge for diving. And it was a dive - he went down in the area, despite Lescott making no contact with him. He apologises. Bloody foreigners.
52 min: Hart flaps again, punching the ball away. The ball is sent back in and Downing heads well wide.
51 min: Absurd as it seems, City are almost clinging on here. First Suarez nearly gets past Nastasic and into the area on the right. The defender gets enough on the ball just nicking it away. Then Downing runs at Clichy, winning a corner. City clear but there's no let-up in the pressure. From the right, Downing curls a cross to the far post where Suarez is unmarked. He cushions it into the six-yard box for Carragher, who's denied by Lescott. Corner to Liverpool.
50 min: Liverpool are causing City problems again. Suarez scampers into the area from the left. He can't quite get a shot away so tees up Gerrard, whose low effort from the edge of the area is blocked by Nastasic.
49 min: From around 35 yards out, in a central position, Suarez's free-kick is deflected wide for a corner on the right by City's wall. He's annoyed because the wall wasn't 10 yards away. Not that his free-kick would have gone in anyway. The corner comes to nothing.
48 min: "Just heard Fox Soccer mangling the English language: 'Second half kick, coming up, on the backside.' Unless, of course, they were referring to Mancini sorting his team out." That email was sent to me by ... Rod Stewart.
47 min: Milner sends in a corner from the left and Garcia heads over from close range. City mean business.
46 min: Here we go again. City, in danger of falling 10 points behind Manchester United, need a very big second half. And it's a good start to it, as Milner whips a devilish cross into the six-yard box and it bounces just past the far post with Reina worried.
Some good news for City: Nigeria have beaten the Ivory Coast in their Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final, which means that Yaya Toure will be back soon enough. Unfortunately he'll be bringing Kolo the Klown with him.
It's a clear foul by Agger on Dzeko, but he clearly wasn't injured. There.
Half time emails.
"What would Chelsea give for Sturridge in this form?" says Seamus Devlin. "Or any striker in any form?"
"I'm choosing to assume the man city fans were booing Dzeko, he proved he was fine by sitting up and pounding the ground right after the foul wasn't given, and then by standing up as soon as play stopped," parps Steven Bentley. "Clearly they're criticizing him for leaving his team short whilst they conceded."
"Don't know what the City fans were complaining about," says Robert Johnson. "Referee saw no foul of Dzeko and he wasn't injured (he hopped up pretty quickly after the goal to abuse the linesman, and didn't even need treatment). The best way to prevent the goal would have been for Dzeko to stop rolling around on the ground for a whole minute and run back to help out his team."
"Denis Law scoring for City at Old Trafford and not celebrating, yes," says Simon McMahon. "Daniel Sturridge scoring for Liverpool at City and not celebrating, no."
"I have to disagree RE players not celebrating goals," says Moses Muccie. "Fans always complain about how self absorbed footballers are and how they do not connect with the fans. Sturridge was set on his way to becoming a multi millionare by Manchester City even if they didn't rate him. It's polite to resist the urge to rub it in the fan's faces even if deep down you are doing cart wheels."
"Re: the awful goal music played at the Madejski, it's a conundrum as Reading fan surveys have indicated a vast majority of punters are against the music," says Derek Walmsley. "However, for some odd reason, they seem to have dropped the question from recent fan questionnaires. Either the players like it as a psychological crutch, Zingarevich has some interest in a weird Russian download music scam, or perhaps most likely, like the BBC News 24 in every pub in the land, everyone hates it and no-one is bold enough to turn it off."
"Had Hart had to handle Zabaletta's back pass in order to prevent it from rolling into the net, what is the referree's call?" says Patrick Finch. "Not sure I know." An indirect free-kick to Liverpool, I believe.
Anthony Taylor's whistle is greeted by boos from the home fans. But to be honest, City have got away with this. With better finishing and a bit more luck, Liverpool could be out of sight. Brendan Rodgers's side have been brilliant and look like scoring every time they go forward. Roberto Mancini has some thinking to do during the break.
45 min+1: There will be two minutes of added time.
45 min: After punching the corner away, Hart makes a decent save from Suarez's low volley from the right side of the area after the Uruguayan had been picked out by a ball from Jose Enrique from left to right.
44 min: Dear lord, City's defence is a rancid mess! Start playing the circus music, if we must have music during games. There's almost a horrible mix-up between Zabaleta and Hart as, under no pressure, City's captain knocks a pass back to his goalkeeper, not realising he'd vacated his original position. Zabaleta and Hart both watch in horror as the ball rolls past City's goalkeeper... and just wide of the post! I blame David de Gea.
43 min: Everyone's calmed down a little bit and City have steadied the ship. For now. "I was at the Madjeski stadium yesterday & a little bit of what remains of football's soul died each time Reading scored and the darts music (Chase The Sun by Planet Funk) started blaring out after a short drum solo," says Neil Thompson. "Hard to tell whether the Sunderland fans were more embarrassed by that or Titus Bramble's 'defending'..."
42 min: "Let's be clear, Dzeko was on the ground feigning injury and got exactly what he deserved," says Richard South. "This suggestion that you can just lie down when you don't get a decision you want and the opposition should just stop attacking is ridiculous. There shouldn't be any controversy at all, he was clearly not injured nor in need or urgent treatment."
41 min: Steven Gerrard stares at Daniel Sturridge after knocking a useless pass out of play for the third time (by my count). That was your fault, Steven.
40 min: Sturridge appears to be feeling a thigh injury. "Heaven knows there's lots of stupidity running amok in football these days but this not celebrating against your old team nonsense has to be high on the list," says Michael Meagher. "Sturridge left Man City three years ago because they didn't want him and he has just scored a crucial equaliser for his new team who have not beaten a top six side under their new manager and surely feel, based on what's happened so far, that this might be their day. For him not to celebrate is showing a combination of self-regard and nonsense bordering on the Christianoesque."
38 min: "Whether it was a head-injury or not is immaterial - it was a blatant foul on Dzeko and the referee should've given a city free kick for it," says John Steciuk. "It's pretty obvious that's why the City fans are angry."
It wasn't just that - they were booing in the build-up to the goal because they wanted Liverpool to put the ball out. It's pretty obvious.
37 min: Suarez is oh-so-close to getting past Nastasic on the edge of the area, but the Serbian just gets enough on the ball to stop him breaking clear. If Liverpool play this right, they should win this match. City have been so dodgy at the back. Moments later, Johnson charges past Clichy on the right but his cross lands on the roof of the net.
36 min: Henderson is booked for a late tackle on Milner. No complaints.
35 min: When Liverpool went to Manchester United two or three weeks ago - I forget exactly when - their first half was one coloured by unforgivable cowardice. They've clearly taken heed from that, attacking City with gusto at every opportunity and seeing what they've got.
34 min: "If there's one time to celebrate with your stupid body-popping dance, it's when you score a controversial screamer against your old club Daniel," says Andrew Enloe. "This refusal to celebrate goals is worse than diving."
33 min: Now City's fans chunter after a contentious corner decision goes Suarez's way on the left. You'll be hearing more about this if it ends as a goal.
It doesn't end as a goal.
30 min: Edin Dzeko has been booked for his complaints about the goal. As much as City will complain about this though - and their fans are spitting blood - the goal was legitimate. You only have to put the ball out of play if it's a head injury and this wasn't one of those. Teams are told to continue playing unless the referee blows his whistle. In any case, Liverpool deserve to be level.
What a goal from Daniel Sturridge against his old club but Manchester City and Roberto Mancini are furious that play wasn't stopped because Edin Dzeko was down injured. They wanted Liverpool to put the ball out of play after Dzeko was felled by Agger. No free-kick was given and as it wasn't a head injury Liverpool played on. They toyed with City outside the area before Sturridge decided to get down to business, absolutely larrumping an unstoppable left-footed shot with no backlift at all past Joe Hart and into the bottom-right corner from 25 yards out.
28 min: "I was watching the game at Newcastle yesterday and for the first 15-20 minutes you could hear music absolutely blaring over the PA system in the stadium and you could hear the stadium announcer as well," says JR in Illinois. "I literally couldn't believe it. I still don't know if it was some type of malfunction or if they meant to be doing it. Have you ever heard of clubs blasting music during a game?" There are certain clubs who play music after goals, which should be a relegationable offence.
26 min: But they come up with the worst set-piece of all time. Downing clips the ball back to the edge of the area for Henderson, who wonks a terrible volley back to Downing, by now offside. Downing and Henderson? It's not quite Beckham and Scholes, is it.
25 min: Sturridge, booed by the home fans, is clipped by Lescott down by the right byline. A chance for Liverpool here. They really don't deserve to be behind.
Against the run of play, Manchester City take the lead through Edin Dzeko. This is a well-constructed goal indeed. David Silva played a reverse pass in behind Johnson and Carragher for Milner on the left. He drilled a low cross into the six-yard box - impossible for Reina to claim - and Dzeko peeled off Agger to tap the ball home. Liverpool should be winning. They're losing.
21 min: City need to get their act together. They're all over the place at the moment. Lescott's clearance is charged down by Sturridge and runs to Suarez. He has a sight of goal again, placed well on the right side of the area, and his left-footed effort slithers just wide of the far post. Liverpool could end up regretting missing these chances. They could easily be two up here.
20 min: What a chance for Luis Suarez. Sturridge leaves Nastasic for dead on the left flank, showing a brilliant turn of pace to get away from the defender. That wasn't a contest at all. He cuts the ball back for Suarez, it's set up for him to slam into the net – and he gets it woefully wrong, sidefooting it off towards the right touchline.
19 min: Silva coaxes a pass over the top for Dzeko but he controls it with an arm. That's the end of that. "Thanks for that link to Dion Fanning's great piece on Brendan Rodgers," says Justin Kavanagh. "He's remind you a bit of a boy scout camp councillor who is always studiously aware of how his boys must look up to him. Whereas Mancini would be the guy offering his scouts cigarettes and beer later if they'll just put on a good show for the visiting parents."
17 min: You think you've got Luis Suarez in a hole and suddenly he's left you for dead. Clichy and Barry think they have the situation sorted on the right - so Suarez just diddles his way through both of them with his quick feet of his. Lescott comes across to concede a corner. From which Liverpool go close again. From 15 yards out, Agger heads it down into the six-yard box. Carragher can't quite turn it goalwards though and ends up hooking the ball over the bar from an angle. What Liverpool would have given for Kevin Nolan in that position!
15 min: Because that didn't result in a goal, Hart won't receive the attention he deserves for that.
14 min: Superb defending from Pablo Zabaleta prevents Daniel Sturridge from scoring against his old team after dreadfully tentative goalkeeping from
David de Gea Joe Hart. Glen Johnson played a stunning scooped pass from right to left, over the City defence, for Sturridge, who was in the clear. Hart came out but not quickly enough and Sturridge cleverly cushioned the ball past him with his left foot, only for Zabaleta to steam across and stop him from rolling the ball into the empty net. A couple of corners follow but Liverpool can't do anything with them.
12 min: "With a bit of Guardian Sport cross-referencing, what do you make of this story about the effect of teams being played music during a game improving their performance," says David Wall. "Surely it's effectiveness would depend on the rhythm of the music, though, which could be a problem for Fulham if 'Diddy' David Hamilton is the man at the turn-tables at the Cottage. Or for Liverpool if the captain gets to make the play-list. I can't imagine Phil Collins it the kind of thing to get the adrenaline going in the right way."
You mean there's music that isn't Sloop John B?
10 min: From the halfway line, Steven Gerrard expertly picks out Joe Hart with a 60-yard pass into space. If Alan Parry was commentating, he'd be saying that "it's not often you see that from Steven Gerrard" even though it is.
8 min: City work a short corner routine on the left but Garcia puts his header from the resulting cross well over the bar. "How about 'Bregers'?" asks Ryan Dunne. "Excessively blokey (c.f. Chappers), faintly pretentious (pronounce it "Bray-jers'' and you've got a hipstery student-ridden pub), with a ring also of the banausically (boogers/wedgies) pseudo-American!"
7 min: Some marvellous slapstick in the Liverpool defence. For a moment Silva looked threatening as he found space on the edge of the area. But Lucas got a foot in - he did a great job on Silva at Anfield last season - and the ball looked like running harmlessly back to Reina, only for Agger to haplessly get involved in proceedings and concede a corner with a needless backpass.
6 min: Rodgers does seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on the touchline clapping, although I'm not sure about his technique. His claps aren't very hearty. They're a bit tippy-tappy which, I suppose, is appropriate.
5 min: Apologies to City fans if this mbm becomes rather one-sided. Needs must. Steak calls.
3 min: Nastasic bumps into the back of Sturridge near the halfway line, the ball breaking for Suarez to run at Lescott - only for Anthony Taylor to blow his whistle instead of playing the advantage. Suarez has the funk on.
2 min: Liverpool clear the corner with some difficulty and break at some speed. Suarez wriggles into the City down the right but he can't get past Gareth Barry. This has all the makings of a fine game already. More of this please, teams.
Peep! We're off. Liverpool, kicking from right to left, get us going. Guess what colours the teams are wearing. City soon pinch the ball though and are on the attack straight away. A loose ball sits up invitingly for Silva to loop a volley goalwards from 25 yards out. Reina punches it over brilliantly. What a start!
Richard South is pessimistic: "Having Carragher in the team for his leadership and experience is all well and good but it also means we'll spend most of the game defending from the edge of the six yard box, no doubt getting dragged all the way back to the goal line as the game wears on. It's a sorry state of affairs that that's the best we have to offer."
It could be Sebastian Coates.
The two teams are incoming. The talking's over, the tracksuit tops are off. Let's get on with it. "I already miss Balotelli," says Kabir Sethi. Pablo Zabaleta has said that the dressing room is already quieter. "With Mario, there's always something to laugh at," said City's captain.
"I prefer B-Rod, or perhaps B-Rog," says Marie Meyer. "Definitely not Brendan. Nothing wrong with that name, mind - I'd be perfectly happy to live in a parish that was overseen by a Father Brendan."
Does he speak Brendanese? Or Brendish? Rodgerese?
"Tevez and Suarez," says Simon McMahon. "Two of the more likeable characters in English football. Team players. Proper modern day Bobby Charltons both."
Brendan Rodgers. Brendan. We need to talk about Brother Brendan. Luckily Dion Fanning has done so in this excellent piece in the Irish Independent, in which he reminds us of this jaw-dropping quote from last season.
Rodgers has mastered the looking confident bit but it remains to be seen if he can produce a successful side. He has tried to make it seem an irrelevance. When Swansea played in Sunderland last year, Rodgers talked about the game in language that is now familiar.
"It is great for the public here at Sunderland to see us," he said after the game. "They must have been wondering what this team everyone is talking about are all about and now they have seen. We were wonderful. Our intention is always to pass teams to a standstill, but give credit to Sunderland, they defended ever so well when other teams might have wilted." Sunderland had just beaten Swansea 2-0.
That really is some impressive hot air right there.
"Hello Mr. Steinberg, (and I hope you're not one of those post modernists who hates formal forms of address)," says Mr Mustapha Garba. "I'd hope Man City fans would join me in cheering Nigeria on in the AFCON today. We've certainly had the better of the match so far, with Victor Moses making like Leo Messi on a number of occasions. That said, I'm not sure City want Yaya back in this kind of form; he's looked sluggish, at times wearing a constipated face. I certainly he hope he carries on like this."
Teams? Teams. Carlos Tevez and Samir Nasri are on the bench for City, with James Milner and Edin Dzeko in instead. Liverpool surprisingly leave Brad Jones on the bench.
Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta, Nastasic, Lescott, Clichy; Milner, García, Barry, Silva; Dzeko, Agüero. Subs: Pantilimon, Rodwell, Kolarov, Sinclair, Nasri, Tevez, Maicon.
Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Gerrard, Lucas, Henderson; Downing, Sturridge, Suarez. Subs: Jones, Wisdom, Skrtel, Allen, Shelvey, Sterling, Borini.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
It's Manchester City v Liverpool and any mention of this fixture always brings up memories of what went on between these two sides at Maine Road on 5 May 1996 when, with City needing a goal to stay up, Steve Lomas ran down to the corner flag in order to protect the 2-2 draw, thinking that's all his team required to beat the drop. They needed a bit more than that – the aforementioned goal to be precise – but by the time they realised it was too late. City were down and wouldn't be seen in the top flight again for another four years, even spending an ignominious year down in the third tier. Lomas had began his day by scoring an own goal too. All in all, it was Cityitis in its purest form.
Happily enough, such slapstick efforts are becoming a thing of the past now, thanks to Sheikh Mansour's billions. City are the champions of England and have won an FA Cup. They've got players like Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure, where once it was Shaun Goater, Nicky Summerbee and Jamie Pollock. No offence to any of those players, but. Yet despite their riches, not everything has gone to plan for City this season. They come into this match 10 points behind Manchester United after only managing a 0-0 draw with QPR in the week, Roberto Mancini has had to admit defeat in his bid to put Him on the right track and no one can find Samir Nasri, even though he keeps being named on the teamsheet every week.
Incidentally Paul Dickov, who helped City escape Division Two with his late heroics in the 1999 play-off final, has left Oldham today – a week after putting Liverpool to the sword in the FA Cup. It's not been a great day for those associated with City - another old boy, Keith Curle, has been sacked by Notts County. But it's Dickov's departure which allows us to move swiftly on to Liverpool, who are still smarting from being given the runaround by Dr Who last Sunday. Given what happened at Boundary Park, you fear what Aguero, Silva and Carlos Tevez might do to Liverpool's defence. But then, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge will fancy their chances against a City defence short on Kompany.
Liverpool are a funny side. At one moment, they look like a laughing stock and before you know it they are threatening to turn into a very good team. Judging by some of the stuff he comes out with in his press conferences, Brendan Rodgers must be as confused as the rest of us. He'll know that City are the firm favourites today. They have tended to be convincing when under pressure in big matches at home under Roberto Mancini and have handed Liverpool two gubbings, three goals to none, in their last two league matches against them at the Etihad. Although, having said that, Liverpool won here in the League Cup last season and are unbeaten in their last three matches against City. Conclusion: anything could happen.