IT would be hard to deny that this new Liverpool FC side came of age on Sunday.
A superb display from Liverpool should have been enough to secure an unlikely victory, but instead, they had no choice but to settle for a 2-2 draw at the home of Premier League champions Manchester City.
The Reds set a positive tone almost instantly (despite David Silva nearly scoring in the first minute with a half volleyed effort) and took the game to the Citizens.
On 13 minutes, Daniel Sturridge done brilliantly to take down a high Glen Johnson pass which took the ball beyond Joe Hart, but Pablo Zabaleta was well placed to intercept what could have been an easy tap-in.
Then, on 20 minutes, Luis Suarez scuffed a Sturridge pull back well wide – a poor execution from Suarez who would have fancied himself to score.
The Uruguayan nearly scored again a minute later when a left foot swinger drifted just wide of Hart’s right hand post.
There was a feeling that Liverpool would regret their wastefulness (a re-occurring theme in their recent history) but even the most negative of fan wouldn’t have predicted an instant goal in response from City which came completely against the run of play.
Just one minute after Suarez’s effort, James Milner received the ball towards the left hand touchline and slid the ball across the box to a grateful Eden Dzeko – who had slipped around the back of Daniel Agger – and his right footed finish was simple.
It didn’t take Liverpool long to secure parity however.
On 29 minutes, Daniel Agger fouled Eden Dzeko in the process of winning the ball and instead of putting it out of play, Liverpool chose to play on.
After a spell of patient build-up play, Javi Garcia got the ball stuck under his feet and it fell to Steven Gerrard; he slipped a short pass to Sturridge positioned at the edge of the box and the former City man took a touch before smashing a left footed rocket into the bottom right hand corner.
Was Agger’s challenge a foul? Definitely.
Should Liverpool have put the ball out of play? Definitely not.
In a world of play-acting footballers, teams can’t afford to assume that a player like Dzeko in this instance is genuinely injured. In the majority of cases, there’s nothing wrong with the player and it’s a blatant attempt to prevent a dangerous counter-attack.
That was exactly the case here, because Dzeko had no problems jumping onto his feet and running to the linesman to complain once Sturridge had scored.
Liverpool continued to probe for the remainder of the half. They could have taken the lead on two occasions just before half time. A Zabaleta backpass nearly rolled into the net, and Suarez’s volley just after was saved low by Hart.
The second half began with even more Liverpool pressure. They didn’t look like forcing a complete implosion from the home side, but the game was played out almost exclusively in the Champions’ defensive third.
Daniel Sturridge was then booked on the hour mark after a dazzling run which culminated in a rather silly dive. It should be noted however that there was definitely contact, but the delay in Sturridge’s tumble accentuated the embarrassment.
But, alas, Liverpool couldn’t turn their latest spell of dominance against a top side into a well deserved lead, and City, inevitably, grew into the game just after the hour mark. Just when it looked like Liverpool would fall behind yet again, ironically, they snatched a second just when it looked like it wouldn’t arrive. On 72 minutes, Clichy’s clearance bounced to Gerrard thirty yards out. The rest you can guess.
Another Steven Gerrard masterpiece.
The Scouse magician took the ball on his chest before aiming a right footed half volley past a flailing Joe Hart that almost kissed the inside of the left hand post. The accuracy of the shot could be so easily overlooked. It’s incredible how Gerrard’s long range efforts find such a small area that make a save nigh on impossible.
Gerrard is unquestionably Liverpool’s greatest ever player. That is increasingly beyond any form of doubt.
But here’s another point…
Play a video of Gerrard’s greatest goals and one could easily come to the conclusion that there has never been a player in the game’s history that has scored a higher amount of spectacular goals.
Hindsight and the passage of time will put Gerrard on an even higher pedestal, just like any great artist.
A goal of such quality should have been the winner, but a player who continues to hinder Liverpool without attracting the criticism that some of his teammates might, cost them victory.
Pepe Reina came out for an aimless ball over the top, a bizarre decision from a player who far too often picks the wrong option under even the slightest of pressure.
Take nothing away from Sergio Aguero however, he touched the ball past a stranded Reina and floated in a superb finish from a very tight angle. A goal that wasn’t out of place in such a great game.
A win would have really galvanised the club, but it wasn’t to be. But this performance and point should still provide the impetus to a barnstorming finish to Liverpool’s league campaign.
Liverpool showed guts in the way they continually attacked City. It wasn’t just a case of passing for passing’s sake either. They created numerous chances and had their illustrious opponents on the rack on several occasions.
Two goals scored at the home of a team that hadn’t conceded a goal in 2013 prior to today’s contest. If they could only eliminate their silly defensive errors, Liverpool could progress at an even higher rate.
Almost everything points to a great side bursting to get out, and that’s helped no end by what looks like a very astute signing from Brendan Rodgers.
Daniel Sturridge is beginning to look like a bargain at £12m. Apart from Wayne Rooney, there’s no better English striker, but it’s Sturridge’s continental flair and skill that sets him apart.
He has absolutely everything in his locker. Pace, skill, intelligence, movement, a powerful shot – the world is his oyster.
He is similar to Luis Suarez in that it has taken almost no time to make a very positive assessment of him as a player. Really good footballers don’t need a world renowned scout to spot the talent and Sturridge is unequivocally within this category.
He and many others should have been on the winning side, but what else can Reds do but to focus on the positive aspects of such an intriguing encounter?
A proud day all round.
Let this be the beginning.
L4L Man of the Match: Daniel Sturridge. For obvious reasons.
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