There was clearly something at stake, although the muddled action suggested that this was a contest for no more than a spot in next season's Europa League qualifiers. On current form that is exactly the competition where Liverpool and Manchester City will find themselves, but so much better had been expected.
Rafael Benítez's team are under the greater scrutiny and regardless of the result against Debrecen in Budapest tomorrow, they will be knocked out of the Champions League in the group phase if Fiorentina win at home to Lyon. At least the Anfield club have most of their many injured players back now, with the key exception of Fernando Torres, who has to rest his hernia for a week or two more.
City have not had such a degree of disruption, yet there is a strange sluggishness, despite the high-octane investment. Mark Hughes really made his mark in 2008 by getting Blackburn Rovers to a seventh-place finish in the Premier League. Regardless of the means at City, it looks as if improving on that is going to be a close call. Hughes' team are sixth at the moment.
Comparisons with the Ewood Park spell are not entirely fair since the strain and scrutiny he encounters nowadays are of a different order. All the same, it is hard to resist pointing out that comparatively impecunious clubs such as Fulham and Birmingham City are among those who have conceded fewer league goals than Hughes' side. His goalkeeper and back four at Anfield had cost some £63m in total.
City's potential and their penchant for haplessness were crammed into the space of a few moments. The visitors took a 2‑1 lead with the neatest move of the day as the lively substitute Carlos Tevez fed Shaun Wright-Phillips in the 76th minute and he turned Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who had come on for the injured Daniel Agger as early as the 10th minute, to set up Stephen Ireland's finish.
Liverpool levelled from the kick-off, as David Ngog's cross broke off Joleon Lescott to present Yossi Benayoun with a simple opportunity. City, all the same, had shown no resilience or determination to keep Benítez's team at arm's length in those critical seconds. Hughes admitted to frustration over "opportunities to clear" that had not been taken.
His side are far from being the hard-nosed and tight-knit group that can compete for honours, even if Nigel de Jong was often formidable as a defensive midfielder. Hughes had attempted to be pragmatic, with Roque Santa Cruz confined to the bench and Tevez not introduced until the 61st minute. Firepower was sacrificed initially, yet City had scant solidity in return. They have now drawn six league fixtures in a row.
Final score Liverpool 2 – 2 (HT 0 – 0) Manchester City
Liverpool's Percentage Manchester City's Percentage
Corners 7 70% 3 30%
Goal attempts 8 53% 7 47%
On target 4 50% 4 50%
Fouls 10 43% 13 57%
Offside 1 20% 4 80%
Liverpool Jose Manuel Reina, Daniel Agger (Sotirios Kyrgiakos, 11), Emiliano Insua, Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel, Steven Gerrard, Ryan Babel (Yossi Benayoun, 19), Javier Mascherano, Lucas Leiva, Dirk Kuyt, David N'Gog
Manchester City Shay Given, Wayne Bridge, Pablo Zabaleta, Joleon Lescott, Kolo Toure (Nedum Onuoha, 46), Stephen Ireland, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Gareth Barry (Carlos Tevez, 61), Nigel de Jong, Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy
Referee Dowd, P
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