It wasn’t so much jingle bells more like jangling nerves as Manchester City edged table toppers Liverpool 2-1 in a ding-dong feast of festive football fayre.

And in keeping with the seasonal sentiment of peace and goodwill, Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet must have mixed up his Christian festivals big time, presenting  victory to City on ‘Palm Thursday’.

Cheeky Beast - Negredo's winner was handed to him by Liverpool's Mignolet Courtesy @MCFC

Cheeky Beast – Negredo’s winner was handed to him by Liverpool’s Mignolet Courtesy @MCFC

The Belgian flapped an insipid right hand at Alvaro Negredo’s 45th minute shot and The Beast of Christmas Present wrapped up the points, giving the City faithful a belated but massively appreciated gift.

How apt that Jesus himself slipped the slide rule perfect pass through to City’s Spanish hitman, before Negredo’s less than convincing strike bounced off Mignolet’s flailing hand into the net.

City, spurred on by the Lazarus-like recovery of Argentine lionheart Pablo Zabaleta, surprisingly and delightfully restored at right back, were made to sweat on their ninth consecutive home win.

Liverpool were by far the best opponents to be dispatched by Manuel Pellegrini’s entertainers at Fortress Etihad, with the Merseysiders coming to battle and not a hint of any unseemly bus parking.

Zaba-Daba-Doo - Pablo's surprise return was a massive boost for City  Courtesy @MCFC

Zaba-Daba-Doo – Pablo’s surprise return was a massive boost for City Courtesy @MCFC

A high octane affair between the Premier League leaders and the PL title favourites was riddled with controversy amid the spectacle of a thrilling, fast moving and  fluent affair.

But rather than have the match celebrated by the media, Brendan ‘bleating’ Rodgers grabbed all the headlines with his hyper-critical comments of the match officials.

The Liverpool boss will feel his attack on referee Lee Mason and his assistants, is justified after Raheem Sterling’s early onside strike was ruled offside. It was a desperately poor call by some highly inept officials, but it is easily forgotten that the immaculate Joe Hart had ceased playing at the ref’s whistle, as Sterling scored.

Gummy - Kompany & Co managed to render the Uruguayan hitman toothless Courtsey @MCFC

Gummy – Kompany & Co managed to render the Uruguayan hitman toothless Courtsey @MCFC

Rodger’s ire was also inflamed when Uruguay’s finest ever Roland Rat impersonator, Senor Luis Suarez, clearly had his shirt pulled by City’s Joleon Lescott for what was a stonewall penalty.

The fact the hugely talented striker chose to exaggerate the foul with a ‘Hands Up Hallelujah’ type dive, cost him a genuine spot kick.

Prima facie Rodgers, the TV pundits and the Anfield adorers in the media had a case. A disallowed goal and a penalty – Liverpool would have won 3-2 and City would have been exposed as fraudsters masquerading as would be champions.

How convenient that so many of the aforementioned assembly of ‘experts’, commentators and ‘journalists’ should forget Martin Skrtel’s valiant attempts at his World Wrestling Federation audition.

Hotstop Hart - Another great display from Joe shows why he is back as Number 1  Courtesy @MCFC

Hotstop Hart – Another great display from Joe shows why he is back as Number 1 Courtesy @MCFC

Liverpool’s Slovakian national captain delivered a dazzling array of moves on his Belgian counterpart, Vincent Kompany – as his attempts at headlocks, Half  Nelsons, Full Nelson’s and even the whiff of a Boston Crab – went blissfully unpunished by the gloriously inept Mason.

It’s funny how Rodger’s omitted to mention the three penalties that should have gone against his team thanks to Skrtel’s skirmishes. A confident Yaya or a deadly AK47, Aleksander Kolarov, would surely have fired home the penalties…so that would be 5-3 to City with Liverpool’s goal difference diminished by a further goal.

Go on Brendan have a bleat about that then!

As stated, Rodgers does deserve credit for assembling a pacy and purposeful ‘Pool’ side who displayed composure and real cutting edge. City were genuinely troubled, particularly by the passing and movement of Suarez, Brazilian Philippe Coutinho and England starlet, Raheem Sterling, no more so than in the 24th minute.

Leading the charge - Captain Kompany celebrates City's equaliser  Courtesy @MCFC

Leading the charge – Captain Kompany celebrates City’s equaliser Courtesy @MCFC

The three waspish wonders combined to engineer the opening goal, with Coutinho turning the ball past a helpless Hart.

City had fallen behind at home for only the second time in nine home PL games, the previous occasion being the blue scousers in early October. It could have been different if Navas’ header hadn’t hit Mignolet’s post in the early exchanges when City dominated.

City were level on the half hour when Kompany managed to break away from Skrtel’s attempts to exchange shirts during match time. The City skipper’s second goal in two matches was a powering header from a David Silva corner.

Merlin's assistance - Spanish Dave bagged an assist providing the corner for Kompany's goal Courtesy @MCFC

Merlin’s assistance – Spanish Dave bagged an assist providing the corner for Kompany’s goal Courtesy @MCFC

Recently re-instated Joe Hart was as sharp as Christmas holly, making several vital stops to prevent the league leaders regaining the advantage.

By contrast, the normally reliable Mignolet was at fault with what ultimately proved to be the winner. One can only cringe at the manner that Hart would have been metaphorically crucified by the media had it been his mistake. Such is the rabid pack-like intentions aimed towards City.

With talisman Sergio Aguero destined to miss at least a dozen games with a calf injury, City are still hitting the net with encouraging regularity. The Boxing Day night brace makes it 53 in the opening 18 PL fixtures, equalling the record set by…Manchester City in 2011/12.

It’s now 59 home league games on the spin that City supporters have at least one goal to celebrate, none more so than Negredo’s, which was just one of 20 attempts on Mignolet’s goal.

The winner is...The Beast  Courtesy @MCFC

The winner is…The Beast Courtesy @MCFC

The spotlight this season has rightly been on City’s goal scoring prowess but, in the wake of this narrow victory, the contribution of a much maligned, oft changed defence should not be under estimated.

Normally Scrooge-like, City’s defence, the meanest in the PL since 2010 has recovered to be the 5th best in the top flight. Zabaleta’s unexpected return and the pending reinstatement of Matija Nastasic will give Pellegrini the chance to select his ultimate back four.

Under Mancini, Gael Clichy would have been an undisputed first choice at left back, but Kolarov’s increasingly competent defensive displays may now give him the edge.

Renowned for his rocket free kicks and lightning fast crosses, the likeable Serbian was exemplary against the nifty Liverpool forwards with a trio of superb last ditch tackles and interceptions.

Team effort - City celebrate an all too rare win over Liverpool  Courtesy @MCFC

Team effort – City celebrate an all too rare win over Liverpool Courtesy @MCFC

Admittedly only two PL games into his ‘resurrection’, Joe Hart is shaping up to being the Joe of old, instilling confidence in his team mates. His shot-stopping and judgement calls were 100% in this vital game and Pellegrini seems satisfied that the England keeper CAN continue as City’s number one.

If City can benefit from mended bodies returning to the fray, Pellegrini can rotate his squad for the rigours of playing games every three days, so Costel Pantilimon may yet return in the FA and Capitol One Cup ties in January.

A clean bill of health and a settled defence could be just as important as the headline grabbers and goal-getters in the days, weeks and months that lie ahead.

Let’s face it a few shut-outs would be welcomed by Joe, as he chases his fourth consecutive Golden Glove Award for the least number of goals conceded.

A win over Palace could see City top the table if Arsenal falter at Newcastle, a great achievement by a squad, subjected to a glut of injuries and still minus Super Sergio.


By David Walker



  1. December 28, 2013  2:37 am by Mole Rocks Reply

    Agree totally that Liverpool have been the best opposition so far at the Etihad in the league.

    They had excellent pace and movement, which caused the City defence a few problems, however, official decisions aside, Kompany and the boys coped well.

    Was great to see Zabaleta return and both Kolarov and Lescott did their bit.

    Hart was very assured and made several excellent saves, although a few in the stadium did criticise him for the first goal.

    The rumblings were he came out to rashly, however considering the precision of the Liverpool passing and speed of movement, I thought there was little he could do differently.

    Negredo upfront was again inventive, showing strength, good pace and sublime passing skills.

    All in all a very good performance and result, which needs to be built on against Crystal Palace.

    • December 28, 2013  8:24 am by David Walker Reply

      We are as one - I thought Hart was excellent and thoroughly deserving of his recall. Had we had Sergio we would have caused them more defensive problems, whereas admittedly, they were missing Sturridge and Gerrard. We can improve our defence with Nastasic and hopefully at least one signing in January.

  2. December 28, 2013  4:24 am by AB Reply

    Great review as ever. As much as the Liverpool side play nice football their 'media darling' manager has now put me off even slightly liking them so much I am hoping that Jose keeps his home record this weekend. It does make me laugh that some of the press talk about their disallowed goal, yes as you write I agree the offside was wrong but play had stopped before Stirling even had chance to attempt to round Hart in goals. Lescott and Kolarov are now our 2 weak points. With Nastasic soon to return, one worry will be over but as many tv repays showed Kolarov is still lazy in defending. Left back maybe an area for strengthening in January? Onto today's game, let's hope our professionalism is maintained above our expectations of wanting at least 6 or 7 goals against a bottom team and none of the city of old returns. 3 pts and a clean sheet will do me.

    • December 28, 2013  8:27 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks, good points but I - for once - thought Kolarov had a good game from a defensive perspective. It appears that our team as a whole are somewhat slow when needing to return to defensive positions after attacks. We tend to stroll back up field rather than sprint - bloody infuriating.

  3. December 28, 2013  8:41 am by Alan Baxter Reply

    Credit where it's due, they've surprised me this season Liverpool, although like Mourinho I wonder if the lack of European games is aiding their threadbare squad. It's only halfway but momentum is building for City and with Arsenal, Utd, Spurs and Liverpool away yet to come every point is precious. I think we're going to have a few "nail biters " that must be ground out before seasons end if we are to reclaim the Premier League.

    • December 28, 2013  9:51 am by David Walker Reply

      Yes, tough away fixtures in second half of season, but we are getting stronger all the time - I think we'll win it!

  4. December 28, 2013  9:24 am by saurabh singh Reply

    Great review. however i find it amusing that people using bad Ref as an excuse for city victory don't mention larsson's tackle that didn't get a red at the "stadium of dim" . and no foul was given for the elbow on milner enroute to the goal. or the offside goals at villa park .

    • December 29, 2013  5:29 pm by David Walker Reply

      Indeed, people, pundits, media etc can be very selective with the elements they choose to highlight - but it's only human nature I suppose. Cheers.

  5. December 28, 2013  9:33 am by Graham Ward Reply

    A very good win against excellent opponents. Only Chelsea, and possibly Southampton, remain to come to the Etihad, who, as it stands on paper at the moment, could be difficult to beat.
    However, I really hope that isn't a viewpoint shared by Pellegrini and co, and I don't think it will be. Hopefully they'll be evidence of this today against Palace.

    • December 28, 2013  9:53 am by David Walker Reply

      Let's hope we've already had our 'sticky patch' and we'll do what the Dark Side has done for decades and just keep winning in the New Year.

  6. December 28, 2013  10:20 am by pedmachine Reply

    Excellent read, David, but I take issue with Kolarov being likeable. I think he is unnecessarily arrogant and unfriendly. But his play is improving. Whether that's for City's benefit or the transfer window, only the New Year will tell. Have a good one!

    • December 28, 2013  1:27 pm by David Walker Reply

      Likeable by Serbian standards! I have met him he's nice enough

  7. December 28, 2013  12:03 pm by DOUG HENSHAW Reply

    Another masterpiece from the pen of the master Dave. Liverpool were very tough opponents & played some good football but the bleating from there manager makes Arsene( i didn't see it ) Wenger seem almost saint like. I have lost all respect for the guy to go on about where the ref comes from is just plain ridicules, no mention of Skrtel's constant fouling of Vinny, Johnson's tackle from behind on AK47 Suarez studs up lunge at Joe. Speaking of Joe think the rest has done him the power of good, if we can get a settled defense who knows were we can go. Finally a mention for a guy i have much maligned Joylen Lescott he had one of his better games for city well played that man.

    • December 28, 2013  1:34 pm by David Walker Reply

      Typical one-eyed coverage by the media - it's no surprise. Cheers Doug

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