KOPS AND ROBBERS
City stunned by last-gasp Liverpool winner
Despite Liverpool being unbeaten so far this season, City fans were right to air on the side of optimism going into this game. A comfortable 2-1 victory against AC Omonia in the UEFA Cup boosted confidence at Eastlands after the drab defeat against Wigan, and a win against Rafa Benitez's Reds would push City further towards the European places in the Premier League.
The match started quite evenly, with City seizing the initiative, and the lead, on the 19th minute. In-form Shaun Wright-Phillips raced down the wing and passed to Robinho, whose ball was cleared by only to the feet of Stephen Ireland. His volley was blasted into the net to put City ahead.
Liverpool had a couple of half chances but it was the home side who doubled their lead four minutes from the break. A foul by former City player Albert Riera saw City awarded a free kick five yards outside the area. Spanish defender Javier Garrido stepped up- and curled his right-foot shot straight into the top corner of the net.
With a two-goal lead, City looked to be cruising to a prolific victory. But Benitez's half-time team talk saw Liverpool go on the offence immediately after the break, and a classic attack from Steven Gerrard resulted in Torres slotting home from six yards. The comeback looked set to be on- but it could have been game over just nine minutes later when Wright-Phillips ran the length of the pitch and passed the ball to Robinho- who then missed an open goal from just two yards out.
Perhaps City fans should have took that as a sign of what was to come, as two minutes later Pablo Zabaleta was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Xabi Alonso. Liverpool were full of confidence and the equaliser was inevitable. It came on 73 minutes when Torres headed home from a Gerrard corner with Joe Hart left fumbling after misjudging the ball. Torres was guilty of missing a sitter and a chance for his hat-trick after mis-queuing his shot from two yards out just a few minutes later.
A late injury to Martin Skrtel set up a grandstand finale, with both teams having 10 men due to Benitez's substitutions. There was definitely one goal left in the game, and with six minutes of injury time, substitute Dirk Kuyt scored to take all three points home for Liverpool.
It seemed harsh on City having been two goals ahead, but against the likes of Liverpool the lead should have been defended and record signing Robinho was guilty of missing the chance to put the Blues 3-1 ahead and effectively kill off the game. Lessons should be learned for Mark Hughes, and questions raised as to if he has the right defenders and the right quality to sabotage the top four sides in the Premier League.
Up next for City is a trip to the North East to face Joe Kinnear's troubled side, Newcastle United. It should be a perfect time for City to play the Magpies, but a result is never guaranteed when you are one of the most inconsistant sides in the League. Shaun Wright-Phillips is the man of the moment and, if his club form continues, it should make for a very interesting spectacle.