Two familiar issues - defensive errors and Glen Johnson - along with frustration in the final third doomed Liverpool as they fell to Manchester City 3-1. While much of the chatter leading up to this encounter circled the midfield as a potential problem area for the Reds, it was actually the play in the other two areas of the pitch that let them down. In fact, the midfield play - led by Joe Allen - was solid throughout and consequently Liverpool controlled play for a few extended periods. But those periods of control didn't amount to enough clear cut chance creation, especially in the first half, and the opportunities that were created weren't taken very well. On the flip side, Manchester City were clinical in their finishing and so Liverpool return home with nothing to show from their first big test of the season.
Manchester City were pinned back 15 minutes into the match after starting brightly, and the next 25 minutes saw the best stretch of play from Liverpool all night. The Reds maintained strong defensive structure and passed the ball around patiently, but also looked to play vertical over the top balls to Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling who made incisive runs behind the City defense. Sterling was especially impressive, repeatedly beating defenders with his dribbling, pushing the ball into dangerous areas, and winning free kicks. Allen was immense playing slightly in front of Steven Gerrard, and on the back of its midfield Liverpool looked the most likely to break through first.
But despite the mounting pressure that Liverpool placed on the hosts, they couldn't find that one killer ball to completely unlock the defense. Sure, some half chances were created, but for all of the ball control that they had between the 15th and 40th minute, it was disappointing that no big opportunity came.
Overall though, it was nice to be nearing half time at the Ethiad still level and looking like the better side. But in the 41st minute, Dejan Lovren headed weakly in the box and Alberto Moreno made a brutal mistake on his debut when he failed to see Stevan Jovetic right behind him as he tried to nonchalantly clear the loose ball away. Jovetic easily took the ball off Moreno and slammed it past Mignolet. It was a heartbreaking way to fall behind after such a positive first 40 minutes.
Liverpool looked refocused when they came out for the second half, regaining control of possession and probing forward. But when City got back on the ball in the 55th minute, they completely fell apart as the right side of the defense vanished and Jovetic was there to claim his second goal. Even on replay it's tough to tell who deserves blame for that catastrophe, and it can be argued that every member of the back four except maybe Martin Skrtel played a part.
Down 2-0, Liverpool brought on Lazar Markovic who immediately impressed and linked up well with Moreno down the left. Unfortunately the final balls on Liverpool's forward movements continued to be poor and so nothing too meaningful was actually created although the potential for a goal was there.
Sergio Aguero was introduced in the 68th minute and scored seconds later after running straight by Lovren, and at 3-0 the match was essentially over. But Rickie Lambert did make things interesting late on when he assisted a Pablo Zabaleta own goal to pull the game to 3-1 and then nearly scored again seconds later.
Glen Johnson was poor again, and he was forced off after hurting himself on an attempted nutmeg of Gael Clichy that was the dumbest dribbling move I've seen in quite some time. Because Rodgers had already used all three of his substitutions, Liverpool played with ten men for the remainder of the match. Skrtel and Moreno picked up late knocks but had to stay on so that Liverpool's numbers weren't reduced further.
While any loss is disappointing, especially when it's a thumping against a team that you went toe to toe with for the title last season, a loss at the Ethiad is not the end of the world. Liverpool will be fine as long as they can bounce back for their prickly encounter with Tottenham on Sunday.
-With Johnson likely out for the next few weeks after his injury, Liverpool will improve at both ends of the pitch. He's often used as a key component on attacks down the right, but he usually ends up giving the ball away. With Manquillo or Flanagan that shouldn't happen as much.
-I want to see Sakho. Soon.
-Hopefully Markovic can start next weekend because he looks like a game changing player.