Monday, February 22, 2010

Pepe Reina great performance when yellow card day



**Manchester City and Liverpool played out a miserable stalemate at Eastlands as they battled for fourth place in the Premier League.

Roberto Mancini and Rafael Benitez have their sights set on a place in next season's Champions League - but this was a wretched advert for their lofty ambitions in an encounter that plumbed the depths for long periods.

Emmanuel Adebayor had City's best opportunities with a shot that was well saved by Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina and a header just off target.

Martin Skrtel headed wide from Liverpool's clearest opening late in the first half, but both teams were so poor that it would have been a travesty had either claimed all three points.

Liverpool could at least point to the return of Fernando Torres, who made a 15-minute appearance as a substitute after knee surgery, but there was little else to provide any cheer amid an Eastlands downpour.

Yossi Benayoun, also back after injury, may have had a penalty had he gone down late on and Liverpool are likely to be the happier with a point.

But a DVD of this desperate encounter should be required viewing for the clubs chasing City and Liverpool for a top-four spot - because it would provide ample encouragement that they can be overhauled.

Liverpool were lifted by Torres' comeback on the bench, while City boss Mancini kept Craig Bellamy as a substitute after a difference of opinion between the pair during the week.

There was not much on offer to excite the pair as the opening 45 minutes produced a wretched spectacle, the lack of quality reflected in the increasingly frustrated mood of the Eastlands gallery.

Liverpool were marginally the better side in the opening exchanges, although keeper Reina offered City rare hope when he hesitated over a clearance, but they were unable to take advantage.

Skrtel wasted the game's best chance on the stroke of half-time when he headed Steven Gerrard's corner wide from six yards. City would have been infuriated to fall behind in such fashion as referee Peter Walton missed a deflection off Skrtel to award the corner to Liverpool.

s a heavy downpour rained down on Eastlands, City opened the second half with greater purpose and Liverpool's Ryan Babel was forced to take a lengthy count after he was struck on the head by a vicious cross from Adam Johnson.

Emmanuel Adebayor almost lifted the gloom on and off the pitch with a long-range effort that Reina did well to save low down by his post.

Benitez made a change after 62 minutes, introducing fit-again Benayoun for the disappointing Maxi Rodriguez as Liverpool pushed for the crucial breakthrough.

Mancini swiftly followed suit, introducing Bellamy for Shaun Wright-Phillips to a huge ovation from City's fans delighted to see the Welshman enter the action.

The mediocrity continued unabated and Liverpool supporters were able to finally greet the return of Torres with 15 minutes left when he came on for Babel, while City took the opportunity to send on Abdisalam Ibrahim for Stephen Ireland.

Adebayor was in position to break the deadlock with 11 minutes left, but he was halted by Skrtel's vital interception - and then headed narrowly over from the resulting corner as a dreadful game drifted to its predictable conclusion.

Time Lineup :

Manchester City : Given, Bridge, Zabaleta, Lescott, Kompany, Ireland (Ibrahim 75), Wright-Phillips (Bellamy 68), A Johnson, Barry, De Jong, Adebayor

Liverpool : Reina, Agger, Insua, Carragher, Skrtel, Gerrardy, Maxi (Benayoun 63), Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt(Aquilani 86), Babel (Torres 75 yellow card)

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