Manchester City’s Craig Bellamy Dents Liverpool Title Hopes

Manchester City seem to ironically have handed their bitter rivals the Premier League title, holding Liverpool to a draw at Anfield this afternoon. A wicked deflection from a Craig Bellamy shot took the Citizens ahead in the second half before Dirk Kuyt equalised late on but Liverpool couldn’t find a winner.22 Feb 2009 18:01:21

Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City

The game at Anfield was one Liverpool simply had to win to stay in touch with Manchester United at the top of the Premier League. This was reflected in Rafael Benitez’s line-up which was extremely strong. Liverpool were searching for a fourth straight win against a Manchester City side that were looking for their 1,200 victory in top flight football. Mark Hughes’ Citizens have only won once on their travels this season.

Liverpool press early without creating any clear cut chances, as to be expected the home side were dominating possession. Jamie Carragher played through Yossi Benayoun in the eighth minute who squared to Fernando Torres but the Spaniard scuffed a rather tame shot well wide of the target.

Robinho featured for the first time in the fourteenth minute, exchanging passes with Stephen Ireland but a promising through ball was well cut out by Pepe Reina. The Citizens looked to open up the Liverpool backline a minute later with a long ball forward from Vincent Kompany looking for former Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy. Alvaro Arbeloa was wise to the danger though, and did well to head back to Reina.

Andrea Dossena ventured forward for Liverpool in the 17th minute and fizzed the ball across the six-yard box but it was behind all three Liverpool players in the box and Manchester City cleared quite easily. Liverpool win a corner in the 22nd minute that produces a goal line scramble, but Micah Richards manages to poke the ball away from Torres.

Ireland launches a beautiful ball cross field to Robinho who eventually cut inside Carragher and played the ball inside for Ireland, who had made up 70yards to receive the ball back from his teammate. The skilful midfielder’s first touch was good but unusually his finish was poor and Reina manages to gather at the second time of asking.

A break away attack sees Torres charge down the right flank, the Spaniard looked up and picked out Albert Riera who has time for two touches, shifting the ball onto his preferred left foot but his shot was wide of the mark. The winger should have done better, it was a great opportunity.

The second half saw Manchester City take the lead in the 49th minute. The ball was thrown in to Robinho who dropped a shoulder and drove inside, he passed to Bellamy who was standing just inside the penalty area. The Welshman’s shot deflected off Arbeloa and arrowed into the far corner past Reina. It was the first time Bellamy had scored against Liverpool.

Two minutes later De Jong rifles a long range effort goalwards from 30yards that has Reina scrambling. The ball swirled just over the bar, Liverpool were on the ropes. It was the jolt that the home side needed as Liverpool had been poor up to this point, despite their possession.

It was the Citizens that were increasingly finding their feet in the second half though, Robinho and Ireland combining well on the hour mark. Ireland received the ball from the Brazilian and span on the edge of the box but his shot was scooped over the bar. City were looking dangerous on the break.

Liverpool had the ball cleared off the line by Richard Dunne and moments later the ball was in the net again for Manchester City, Ireland was the scorer. Fortunately for the home side he had ventured into an offside position before tapping in the cross-shot from Richards in the 67th minute.

Benitez’s side bought themselves an underserved lifeline in the 78th minute. Dirk Kuyt slotted home from close range following a Benayoun cross from the left, it missed Torres who swung a boot at it and caught nothing but air. Liverpool needed a winner to keep their title hunt alive.

The Citizens were looking vulnerable, understandably considering their shocking away form, Benayoun cut in the from the left before having his shot blocked by a crowd of City players. Kuyt then strikes one from range, it moved in the air and Shay Given could only palm away.

Liverpool seemed to be happy to launch the ball forward more in hope than anything from this point on. Without the influence of Xabi Alonso in midfield the home side had looked short on ideas. Manchester City were trying to hold onto the ball whenever they could.

The Citizens held on for the draw and it was the sixth home draw for Liverpool this season. Manchester United are now seven points clear at the top of the Premier League and it is looking increasingly like the title race is over. Manchester City put in a good performance and thoroughly deserved their point.

Owen Watson,

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