There’s a challenging whiff of déjà vu in the air as the football pundits and journalists re-categorise Manchester City’s chances of winning the Premier League from Mission Improbable to Mission Impossible.
We’ve trodden this path before, but the simple lyrics of a self explanatory song should act as a warning to those already adorning the PL trophy with red and white ribbons – ‘We’ll fight ‘till the end, we’ll fight ‘till the end, we’re Man City we’ll fight till the end…’
It’s a battle cry familiar to every man, woman and child who care so passionately for the fortunes of Roberto Mancini and his men and it won’t fall silent any time soon.
Nine points adrift of their Fergie-led foe, City are left to battle for the remaining 39 on offer from 13 games after this ‘must win’ match deteriorated into hard fought draw against historically tough opposition.
Four points dropped in six days by City could even tempt the flamboyant Bet Fred – a notorious Red – to chance his arm, as he did last April, and start paying out prematurely on United’s 20th title. If so, it could once again be an expensive folly.
Excellent strikes from skipper Steven Gerrard and ex-City Academy graduate Daniel Sturridge looked to have given Liverpool an unexpected win, that was, until Sergio Aguero served up a sublime finish and Goal of the Season contender.
A draw was the right result on the balance of play. The Scousers proved unexpectedly good, whereas City were disjointed and profligate in conceding possession.
Sturridge and Luis Suarez looks like a more than promising spearhead as the Mersey Reds strive to chase a top four slot and a return to the Champions League stage. Having played just a handful of games, they looked more in synch that Dzeko and Aguero.
That said, it was the Bosnian who put City ahead in the 23rd minute with a simple three yard tap-in, following sterling wing play from Man-of-the Match James Milner.
The champions held the lead for just five minutes before referee, the Totally Woeful Anthony Taylor (T.W.A.T)claimed an assist, albeit it’ll go down to Gerrard in the Opta statistics.
Dzeko was blatantly taken out by Daniel Agger who came through the back of City’s top scorer. Taylor and his equally idiotic assistant in crime waved play on. Zabaleta and Barry appealed in every expectation but momentarily lost concentration. Dzeko stayed down.
40 seconds later Gerrard squared the ball to Sturridge whose cracking 25 yard shot whizzed past an unsighted Joe Hart.
Pandemonium ensued. A crescendo off boos greeted Taylor as he trotted over to Dzeko, now up on his feet, remonstrating with the linesman. Dzeko was booked for dissent and, despite him being fouled, he did his team mates a disservice by exaggerating his ‘injury’ and staying on the floor.
The conundrum of the day seemed to be what shade of red Taylor had on underneath his standard issue black uniform– the red of Liverpool or Manure? One City ‘wag’ in the Colin Bell Stand quipped ‘Just give Gerrard the whistle’ – there’s many a true word said in jest.
A minute before the break and stand-in captain Zabaleta – a man forever to have a place in the heart of City fans – instead had hearts in mouths after a mix up with Hart. Zaba’s innocuous back pass was almost calamitous as he lost his bearings putting the ball past his keeper…and thankfully the right side of the goal post.
A trend of mis-measurement emerged as the game wore on. Referee Taylor decided City’s defensive wall had to stand 12 yards away from every Liverpool free kick, whereas the visitor’s wall should position themselves just seven yards in front of City’s. The standard 10 yards was obviously too old fashioned for Mr Taylor.
He did however have the decency to book Sturridge for a theatrical dive in the 53rd minute. Two minutes later and a clearly not match-fit Matija Nastasic was replaced by Aleksander Kolarov. The young Serbian centre has a maturity way in advance of his years and will be one of the best in the world in no time at all.
With 17 minutes left Gerrard latched onto a loose Gael Clichy clearance, driving a stunning 30 yard piledriver beyond Hart.
Was this to be the afternoon City said goodbye to their title aspirations?
This time Liverpool held the lead for just five minutes. The simply sensational Sergio, with ankles and calves as black and blue as his shirt thanks to Agger, Carragher & Co, created a thing of beauty.
A through ball from the admirable Gareth Barry saw Sergio forced wide right of Reina’s 18 yard box with the Spanish keeper in hot pursuit.
Without even looking up, Aguero hit the cutest shot from the most acute of angles into the gaping Liverpool goal – pure unadulterated footballing genius.
The iconic Argentinian felt the same way as he celebrated seated on the turf, double fist pumping the air with a beaming smile.
The 47,000 plus crowd found voice once again anticipating a now typical barnstorming City finish, complete with back-from-the-dead, late, late winner.
It wasn’t to be, despite fighting until the end.
Better news emerged out of Africa, with the Ivory Coast’s exit from the African Cup of Nations meaning an earlier than expected return for Yaya Toure. The big fella can galvanise City’s midfield starting at Southampton on Saturday evening as Mancini targets 39 points from 39.