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January 11, 2012
• Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Referee: L. Mason
• Attendance: 36017
This was a very bland performance from the home side and they were duly punished. Liverpool were professional in their defending and confident in their attack in the first period. The rash Savic foul gave Gerrard the chance from the spot and that was all they needed. Totally different game to last week's Premier League encounter and Liverpool walk off the pitch with one foot on the Wembley pitch. Thanks for joining me, I bid you goodnight!
90' + 3'
Well that is that. Full time.
Nearly! A quickly taken free-kick allowed Nasri the space to clip a ball into the near post. Aguero's deft header looked to be on target with Reina scrambling but it just nipped over frame.
It's attack vs defence as we enter the final few minutes. Liverpool are hoofing clear anything that moves as they desperately try to cling onto this valuable away win and it seems every ball that drops is falling kindly. It definitely hasn't been City's night tonight.
Yellow Card Jamie Carragher
Yellow Card Samir Nasri
Wow. Since coming on, Kolarov has been absolutely awful. His latest effort is a cross that flies way over Reina's crossbar - utterly wasteful given he was brought on with an cast at his set-piece credentials. Meanwhile Nasri and Carragher have clashed. A little kick on Nasri, led to a push on Carragher. No handshake and a booking apiece.
Carragher is on for Bellamy which I believe makes Dalglish's side line-up in a 6-3-1 formation. He's a visionary!
Mini-chance for City but Reina blocks Barry's flick-on at the near post. Nasri's cross from the right flank is a teaser that drops at the front of the six yard box but Barry's tentative flick is neither convincing nor threatening as Reina blocks and then collects.
"MY KINGDOM FOR A GOAL" is what I imagine Bobby Mancini to be thinking right now. It is all City but Liverpool have held firm. Kolarov's latest 30 yard volley sums up the lack of creativity in the home side. They just can't pick the lock.
It's Mr Stobart from the Etihad: "Kenny Dalglish his deep in conversation with his assistant Steve Clarke as Liverpool plot their next move in search of a first leg lead that will make them clear favourites to progress to the final. Hands in pockets, Dalglish does look a little concerned as his side sit deep and invite City to attack. He will know, though, that with Bellamy and Gerrard still on the pitch, there is a real chance of scoring a second goal on the break."
Nigel De Jong
Right let's work this one out. Kolarov is on for De Jong and that means a whole manner of tactical switcheroos. Clichy has cropped up on the right flank, which I assume means Kolarov will be the left wing-back. Same back three. Barry holding. Milner, Nasri and Aguero flitting about behind Dzeko. Yes, I think I've cracked it
Decent chance again for City - this is much better. Nasri played a deft one-two with Aguero on the edge of the box but his drive flew over Reina's bar. Who, by the way, is none too pleased with his defence. The keeper hopped about his box incredulously following that chance. I'm guessing it's frustration at how deep his defence are dropping
City, led by Sergio Aguero are beginning to ramp it up a notch now. Once again the striker scurried across the penalty box but just as he looked set to let fly, Glen Johnson's excellent tackle nicked the ball from him. Still, it's all City
Dzeko's about to enter the fray but just before he does Aguero almost found the net for City. The tricky Argentina scampered across the box from right to left with three Liverpool defenders on his tail. He cut back, sending all three off balance and opened the shooting opportunity. But his low curling shot from the edge of the box was easily gathered by a diving Pepe Reina.
News from the Etihad courtesy of Greg Stobart: "The City fans are starting to crank the volume up a notch now and it’s Liverpool who looking a little nervous as they come under pressure from the hosts. In an intriguing tactical battle, Liverpool have just brought on Jose Enrique for Stewart Downing and themselves reverted to five at the back, with Glen Johnson playing as a left-sided central defender. Kenny Dalglish seems to be happy to try and hold on for the final 30 minutes here."
Wonderful save from Reina. Micah Richards powered through the crowd from a corner and met the ball about six yards out. His header is powerful but directed at Reina who gets his body in the way
Well Martin Kelly has got away with that. His backpass to Reina was intercepted by Aguero but despite skipping to his left, Reina did just enough to pressure the Argentine into hitting his shot wide. That was almost the breakthrough City needed
To add to that, City look as though they switched to a back three of Lescott, Savic and Richards. Clichy and Milner as wingbacks, Johnson is one of three midfielders but appears to have a license to drift inside.
Adam Johnson has switched flanks this half and has already had a fair bit of involvement. City look a bit sharper since emerging from the break but thus far, Liverpool have defended with focus and not allowed the home side to fashion a chance
We're back and Liverpool get the second half underway for the second quarter to this Carling Cup tie
I must say - to give hope to worried City fans - that the home side have looked much stronger since the introduction of Nasri. They're definitely not out of this tie, though the away goal may prove crucial.
And here's Greg Stobart's view from the Etihad: "If looks could kill. Roberto Mancini wore a thunderous expression as he stormed down the tunnel before the referee had even finished blowing for half-time. City have been well below par, despite gradually getting a foothold in the game after a very sloppy opening 15 minutes. Liverpool have looked sharper throughout and could have been at least a couple of goals ahead before Steven Gerrard put them ahead in the 13th minute from the penalty spot. With an away goal in the bag, the Reds look happy to sit deep and spring on the counterattack, frustrating City as the hosts struggle to find an attacking rhythm."
Right then, time to make that cup of tea I've been longing for! Lee Dixon in the BBC studio has been particularly scathing in his criticism of City - calling their first half performance "awful".
45' + 3'
Last chance of the half for City and it came from a free kick on the edge of the area. Adam Johnson won it after being bundled over by Glen Johnson as he lined up a shot. Johnson (the City one) attempted to curl the 25 yarder into Reina's top right corner but it was off target and nestled with the Liverpool fans. That is half-time.
Great chance for City on the stroke of half-time and it fell to Milner. Richards marauded down the right and cut in along the byline and past Glen Johnson. His pullback fell to Milner on the edge of the box but his first time right footed strike was swept high and wide of Reina's right hand post.
Decent first involvement from Samir Nasri who asks the question of Reina. His low drive from the edge of the box zipped off the surface but was beaten away by the Spaniard. City are just about starting to play now. Nasri is operating deeper than Balotelli would normally and City are seeing more possession
Erm. Balotelli has been taken off by Mancini for Nasri and has walked straight down the tunnel. The Italian striker glanced at his legs and sort of hobbled off but it's hard to tell if it was a genuine injury or him just saving face. Either way, Mancini didn't acknowledge him on the way off...cue a thousand rumours. I reckon Mario just refused to pay for Mancini's petrol...
Decent chance for Carroll but his glancing header flies wide of Hart's right hand post. It's worth noting that Savic was beaten to the ball again by Carroll. He's seemed far from assured tonight.
Audible frustration coming from the home fans. They've really not been at the races so far. The pace is too slow and Liverpool have looked comfortable so far
Intelligent gamesmanship from Adam following a tackle on Balotelli. As he rose to his feet he tapped the Italian on the head causing Super Mario to leap to his feet and confront the Scot. James Milner deserves a medal for getting between the two though. Balotelli seems on the verge of creating another talking point tonight. It'll either be brilliant or hot-headed and reckless. As things stand, I'm rooting for the latter
Captain Micah Richards is getting about the pitch in usual bruising manner. He picked up a loose short ball from Carroll took a touch and launched an ambitious 30 yard attempt but it was bravely blocked and came to nothing
So it will be a straight swap - Adam for Spearing. That does raise some defensive concerns for the Reds, because although Adam is comfortable playmaking from deep, he certainly doesn't have the pace or work rate that Spearing offers. Having said that, with Silva missing and no central midfielder occupying the space between the defence and midfield, Adam should be ok
Oops, Jay Spearing has waved to the bench and looks to have injured himself. Possible hamstring by the looks of it. Charlie Adam is set to enter the fray. Shame for Spearing who has really stepped in for Lucas in recent weeks.
More from our man Greg Stobart at the Etihad: "All the noise here is coming from the Liverpool supporters as they celebrate a lead they fully deserve. Like last week, they have controlled the ball early on but this time they have got their reward. It was a superbly struck penalty from Steven Gerrard to beat a goalkeeper who looks inspired form tonight. City manager Roberto Mancini, standing right on the edge of his technical area, is not happy with Sylvester Stallone lookalike Stefan Savic, who has had an incredibly rocky start to the game and conceded the penalty with a horribly mistimed challenge on Daniel Agger."
You can't help but feel for Joe Hart in all of that. He made two fantastic saves but Savic's rash desperation let him down. The game itself has thrown up two great duels already. Carroll versus Savic looks a bit tasty while Johnson v Johnson on the near touchline could lead to the odd opening
Right, let's recap! The penalty came just after the deflected Downing volley and was completely correct in being awarded. With the ball bouncing around in the area, Agger touched it ahead of him but was crudely upended by a knee high 'tackle' by Savic. Blatant as they come.
Penalty Goal Steven Gerrard
GOOOAAALLL!!! Steven Gerrard stepped up and swiped the ball to Hart's right. A finely taken penalty meant that even by guessing correctly, the City keeper couldn't keep it out. 1-0 Liverpool!
Penalty to Liverpool!
Panic stations! The corner from Gerrard was clipped to Downing on the edge of the box and his volley skidded through a crowd, took a nick off a red shirt and looked to be going in. Hart, again, sprang to his left and made the save - an excellent stop.
Great save from Hart! Gerrard, who has been busy so far, curled one low on goal but Hart was equal and turned it away for a corner.
Interesting. Greg Stobart has this to say: "‘We’re not racist, we only hate Mancs’ comes the chant from around 7,000 Liverpool fans housed behind Pepe Reina’s goal before they sing Luis Suarez’s name. As with Manchester United’s visit here on Sunday, the bigger than usual away allocation for a cup game is making for a cracking atmosphere in the early stages of the game."
At the other end Mario Balotelli almost found himself in on goal at the angle but a superb recovery tackle from Skrtel prevented the Italian reaching the ball first
It's been a composed start for Liverpool and they create the first chance through Andy Carroll. The through ball found the target man one on one with Savic. He turned reasonable well and bore down on goal. His low right footed strike was smothered by the legs of Hart though.
Let's get this show on the road! The teams have kicked off and City are playing from left to right
We're minutes away from kick off so let's see what our man on the scene Greg Stobart has to say: "Good evening from the Etihad Stadium, where there is no indication of the high winds predicted by the Great Manchester Police on a relatively mild night in the east of the city. While there is great expectation in the press box ahead of this clash, it’s not necessarily reflected by the supporters. City are expected an attendance tonight of just 36,000 - many of which will be Liverpool supporters packed into the away end behind the goal to my right. With City targeting Premier League glory, this tie does feel bigger for Kenny Dalglish’s side as Liverpool look for their first trophy since winning the FA Cup in 2006. City boss Roberto Mancini, however, is determined to foster a winning mentality at the club after the FA Cup triumph last season. In his programme notes, the Italian insists he will not underestimate the Reds despite City’s 3-0 win when the sides met in the Premier League a week ago. Mancini writes: “We know Liverpool very well. We were quite clinical last week and will have to be so again this evening. We want to go to Anfield for the second leg with a lead but we will have to be at our best. Liverpool is a strong team that has not won a trophy for a while and they will want to reach the Carling Cup final like we do. “We know from last season what a boost to a club winning a trophy can be. It brings everyone together, it gives the staff a lift and the confidence to go on and be even better.”
I'm not usually one for predictions (mainly as they're always rubbish) but I will make one tonight: Liverpool will hit the woodwork...bold I know.
Random fact for you: Ruben Rochina's 4 League Cup goals this season make him the competition's top goalscorer! Obviously there's no chance of him adding to that, but interesting nonetheless...
For Liverpool, this is their 2nd trip to the Etihad in a week. Jose Enrique drops to the bench but there is very little change from their last meeting. Captain Steven Gerrard starts his second consecutive game since returning from injury whilst Downing and Carroll will hope to build on their goals against Oldham on the weekend. Make no mistake, both teams are fully intent on getting to Wembley. I'm hoping for a classic - it should be closer than the 3-0 Premier League fixture at least!
So there's plenty of change for Roberto Mancini with Vincent Kompany's four match ban starting tonight. Both Toure brothers have flown off to the African Nations and David Silva is ruled out through injury. City really are down to the bare bones!
Liverpool (4-5-1): Reina; Kelly, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson; Spearing; Downing Gerrard Henderson Bellamy; Carroll Subs: Jose Enrique, Coates, Kuyt, Carragher, Shelvey, Adam, Doni.
Firstly the team news... Man City (4-4-2): Hart; Richards, Savic, Lescott, Clichy; Milner, Barry, De Jong, Johnson; Aguero, Balotelli Subs: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Onuoha, Dzeko, Nasri, Hargreaves
Evening one and all and welcome to Goal.com's coverage of tonight's Carling Cup semi-final between Manchester City and Liverpool! My name is Jay Jaffa and I'll be taking you through this first leg clash at the Etihad Stadium.
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