ADVANTAGE Liverpool, as they held onto a one goal lead in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final against Man City.
Captain Steven Gerrard dispatched a penalty past Joe Hart in the 13th minuet after Stefan Savic fouled Daniel Agger in the penalty area. Previously Joe Hart was called into action twice, first by a trademark Gerrard shot, then a smart flick from a corner by Daniel Agger.
The Man City stopper was also on hand to deny Andy Carroll in the first minuet as Liverpool started the brighter of the two sides.For Carroll it was once again a difficult day at the office as he struggled upfront as the lone man.
The only solace for Carroll being that Man City centre back Savic was having an even more torrid time. Before giving away the penalty Liverpool constantly ran through the middle of Man City, who without Yaya Toure (at the African Cup of Nations) and Vincent Kompany (suspended) struggled to contain Gerrard.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish got it tactically right, as he deployed Henderson further up the field occupy De Jong and allowing Gerrard freedom to run at Savic, with Jay Spearing dropping anchor in behind him. Spearing wouldn’t last long though as he was taken off injured half way through the first period, with Charlie Adam replacing him.
As the first half wore on, Liverpool sat back and without a ball winner in the middle of the park, Man City began to enjoy a bit more possession. Although they rarely threatened. In fact it wasn’t until towards the end of the first half that Man City really looked like scoring as Micah Richards muscled past Glen Johnson at left back to cross for James Milner. Unfortunately for City Milner shot over the bar from inside the area.
In the second half Man City improved vastly, Samir Nasri on for the maverick Mario Balotelli in the first half due to an injury, had a couple of runs at the Liverpool defence. For the majority of the second half City had Liverpool penned back in their own half, with no outlet for the defenders to aim at.
Martin Kelly nearly gifted Man City an equaliser when his loose ball let Sergio Aguero in one on one with Jose Reina, but the Liverpool keeper stood tall denying the Argentinian a scoring opportunity.
Both managers made tactical shuffles in their ranks, but despite wave after wave of Man City attacks they rarely threatened as an organised Liverpool back line shut them out. Aguero headed over the bar in the latter stages of the match, but Liverpool leave the Etihad Stadium with a one goal advantage.
MAN CITY: Hart 9, Richards 8, Lescott 5, Savic 4, Clichy 6, Milner 6, Johnson 5, Barry 6, De Jong 6, Aguero 7, Balotelli 3
SUBS: Nasri 7, Dzeko 6, Kolarov 5
LIVERPOOL: Reina 8, Johnson 6, Agger 7, Kelly 5, Skrtel 7, Gerrard 9, Henderson 5, Downing 6, Spearing 7, Carroll 5, Bellamy 6
SUBS: Adam 5, Enrique 6, Carragher 6