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Benitez wins in his first match in front of the Kop

Preview, report and player-by-player analysis by Robbie Amins at talklfc

Manchester City in recent times feels like a friendly fixture due to their strong Liverpool connection. They are managed by a Liverpool legend in Kevin Keegan. They hate Man Utd as much as (or more than) the Liverpudlians. And former Reds David James, Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Nicolas Anelka are part of the team. Joey Barton, a Scouser and one of Stevie G's best mates has been strongly linked with a move to Anfield in recent days and might well be playing his last game for City.

The most recent encounter between these two sides at Anfield was less than a year ago, the Reds coming out on top 2-1 thanks to goals from Steven Gerrard and a player who's now in Spain. The scorer for Man City? None other than Shaun Wright Phillips who (if you believe the tabloids) decided against a move to Merseyside and signed a new 4-year deal.

This game was Rafa Benitez's first ever at Anfield. The Spaniard kicked off his Premiership career with a draw at Tottenham last week and he was looking to build on that result at Liverpool's home ground. And Fowler wanted to make sure he starts on a bad note.

He said, 'We did reasonably well at Anfield last season and we will go there confident we can do well. There is nothing worse than losing your opening game.'

The 29-yr-old is gunning for his 200th career goal after he opened his account for this season with an exquisite right-footed overhead kick last week against Fulham.

'It took me a while to get off the mark last season and I was quite pleased with my own personal performance against Fulham. It was nice to score that goal, especially with the right foot, although I have been known to use it before!'

The Liverpool boss wants a victory but he wants the Reds to do it in style.

Benitez said, 'I hope we play well and win the match because I think it's important to play well in front of our home fans, and show the supporters how well we can play.'

'The idea is three points but if you see your team playing well and are together, strong and trying to do things the right way then it's better. We want to win this match and we have been working very hard in training.'

'Manchester City have some good players and I know about Shaun Wright-Phillips who is a very good player with pace and skill. We have to control him but City have other good players like Fowler, Anelka and Sibierski.'

Djibril Cisse and Josemi will be making their home debuts. The £14M man scored The Reds' goal at White Hart Lane and the French forward is likely to continue his new partnership with Milan Baros.

New signing Alberto Nunez is out with injury while the game has come too early for Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia who are expected to complete their moves to Liverpool in the very near future. Chris Kirkland's place on the bench will be taken by Paul Harrison after the England hopeful suffered his latest injury setback and will be out for a week.

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Match report


Rafa Benitez got his first win at Anfield in his first match in front of the Kop thanks to goals from Milan Baros and Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard. A moment of bad defending and mis-communication by Jamie Carragher and Jerzy Dudek led to Man City's goal. Nicolas Anelka giving his team the lead just before half-time.

1st Half
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The team in red must have thought this was a training 'keep ball' session. Liverpool had the majority of the possession but not much to show for it. Rafa Benitez emphasized time and time again the importance of being patient and holding on to the ball and not giving it away but his side were lacking ideas to break down the Manchester City defence.

Liverpool cautiously passed the ball across the back four and displayed the same lack of width in attack that brought so much criticism during the Gérard Houllier era. There were however glimpses of the much vaunted explosive pace of Djibril Cisse. On one occasion though, he could have passed the ball to Harry Kewell who was in a much better goalscoring position but he didn't. Either he had little confidence in his passing ability or he wanted to go for goal himself. It didn't matter. The Man City defence was quick to clear the ball.

Against the run of play, former Liverpool player Nicolas Anelka scored the goal that has got to be one of the easiest in his career. Shaun Wright-Phillips lobbed the ball forward for Anelka to chase. Carra failed to head the ball away or maybe he thought Jerzy was alert enough to handle the situation. Dudek, who just made a blooper in Poland's recent friendly defeat against Denamark, somehow let the ball slide out of his grasp. Anelka took full advantage of the defensive error despite Carragher's efforts.

1-0 at half-time...

2nd Half
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It took just three minutes for Liverpool to find the equaliser. A low cross from Josemi, the only one of Benitez's Spanish signings on the field, was cleared by Claudio Reyna only for the ball to find its way to the right foot of Steven Gerrard. He instantly spotted his chance to thread it through for Milan Baros. The Czech striker was all poise and balance as he took one touch,two touch before dinking it past the advancing David James.

The Liverpool fans sensed another goal for the Reds. James in the City goal was going to have a busy second half. The speedy Djibril Cisse stopped in his tracks by the diving keeper and a left-handed save to stop Milan Baros from scoring his second from close range. But he was helpless to keep out Gerrard's winner. Baros showed good technique to control the ball in the box from Didi Hamann's pass and somehow got his shot in on goal. James managed to stop that one but Gerrard, who must have ran at least 40 yards to get into the box, followed up to put away the rebound.

Kevin Keegan reacted by sending on winger Trevor Sinclair and Liverpool target Joey Barton for Bosvelt and Sibierski. Manchester City's chances of getting back into the game were as good as gone when Richard Dunne was sent off after his second bookable offence. He was already cautioned after a late tackle on Baros in the 1st half. Cisse who would have definitely got a clear path through on goal was hauled down by the City defender after yet another superb pass from Gerrard.

Stephen Warnock came off the bench for Steve Finnan with Harry Kewell switching to the right flank. Stephen did well enough to impress the fans.

Liverpool coming back from a goal down to win has been something like a rare phenomenon since the Houllier days but what City right-back Danny Mills did was even more extraordinary. Richard Dunne was so incensed by Graham Poll's decision that he had to be restrained by the usually volatile Mills.

Liverpool Match stats
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Goals 2
Shots on target (inc goals) 9
Shots off Target (inc woodwork) 5
Blocked Shots 1
Corners Won 8
Total Fouls Conceded 8
Offsides 3
Yellow Cards 1

Liverpool (4-4-2): Dudek; Josemi (Diao 61), Carragher, Hyypia, Riise; Finnan (Warnock 77), Gerrard, Hamman, Kewell (Biscan 85); Cissé, Baros.

Subs not used: Harrison (gk), Sinama-Pongolle.

Booked: Didi Hamann

Man City: James, Thatcher, Distin, Dunne (sent off 85), Mills, Sibierski (Barton, 82), Bosvelt (Sinclair, 82), Reyna, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Anelka, Fowler
Subs not used Macken, Jihai, Stuhr-Ellegaard.

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Player-by-player analysis

Rafa Benitez got his first win at Anfield in his first match in front of the Kop thanks to goals from Milan Baros and Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard. A moment of bad defending and mis-communication by Jamie Carragher and Jerzy Dudek led to Man City's goal. Nicolas Anelka giving his team the lead just before half-time.

Jerzy Dudek
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His place in the starting line-up has got to be in doubt after yet another howler. Against Spurs, he did not cover his near post well for Jermain Defoe's equaliser. He followed that up with an error in his country's mid-week friendly against Denmark. He was substituted by the Poland manager at half-time in that game to spare him from further embarassment. And yesterday, what looked like an easy ball to hold on was somehow spilled by Jerzy. Perhaps he was confident that Carra would head it away and was surprised to see the ball get anywhere near him.

John Arne Riise
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Credit to Riise for keeping Shaun Wright-Phillips quiet for most of the match. SWP was limited to only a couple of his trademark dinking runs. Last season, he said that he had to improve on the defensive side of his game. And from what the fans have seen in pre-season and the matches so far, he has indeed become a better defender.

Sami Hyypia
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Reliable as usual but was not the usual attacking threat in the set-pieces. Who could blame him when City have got a lot of height (excluding Mills) in their defence?

Jamie Carragher
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Apart from than that moment of folly that led to the opening goal, Carra played well. His understanding with Hyypia is still developing but you can sense that he is maturing into a very good centre-half. Probably he could have tried to apply pressure on Anelka rather than running to cover the near post after the initial error.

Josemi
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Solid in the tackle and impressive so far since his arrival from Malaga. On one occasion, he showed some Spanish flair when he flicked the ball past one player and almost managed to beat another. Other than that, he didn't contribute a lot in the attacking sense but his cross into the box did lead to the equalising goal. Josemi was forced to leave the field in the second half following a kick to his back and he is a major doubt for Liverpool's Champions League qualifier with AK Graz on Tuesday night.

Harry Kewell
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In this match, we saw the good and the bad of Harry Kewell. There were moments of brilliance from the Aussie wing wizard but at times he could be frustrating. Credit to Harry for working hard. He tracked back to try and win the ball, helped Riise to close down on Wright-Phillips and beat his marker many times. There were times when he showed too much of the ball to the opponent and a player of his ability should really do better. Encouraging signs though.

Steven Gerrard
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He has continued in the rich vein of form that won him the vote of the fans and the players to be Liverpool's Player of the Year last season. After the sale of Michael Owen, it was a good time for Gerrard to demonstrate why it is his departure that the Liverpool faithful would find completely unpalatable. Created the equaliser, scored the winner. What more can you say?

Didi Hamann
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Xabi Alonso's arrival from Sociedad did not seem to affect him and he was at his usual ways. Quietly effective at breaking down the City attacks through the centre and tried to quickly launch attacks on the break.

Steve Finnan
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Finnan was effective without being spectacular. A more natural winger (Luis Garcia comes to mind) will open up more attacking options for Liverpool but Steve kept the ball well when under pressure and had a decent game.

Djibril Cisse
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The ace of pace was unlucky not to score in a game where Liverpool probably should have scored more. He was a serious threat to the City defence and had Richard Dunne not pull him down when he was about to go through on goal, he would have most probably gone on to score his first goal at Anfield. A quiet game by his standards.

Milan Baros
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Milan saw a lot of the ball especially in the second half. He was almost anonymous in the match against Spurs but yesterday, Baros looked like the Czech version of the player that many admired this summer. He looked sharp and with his low centre of gravity, drew fouls from the Man City players. He probably should have scored a second after he found himself in a very good goalscoring position but it was a good save nonetheless from David James.

Salif Diao
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I almost had a heart attack when Diao came on for Josemi (who was struggling with his back injury). Just joking of course. Carra switched to right back after that and Diao partnered Hyypia in the centre. Didn't do much wrong but it was City rather that did not give him too much defending work to do.

Stephen Warnock
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How Houllier managed to overlook him for the first-team during his time at Anfield I don't know. But that probably made Stephen the player he is right now. Warnock played well again after coming on for Finnan. Probably he could have scored after a quick counter-attack by the Reds but he unselfishly stroked the ball to Biscan who failed to convert the chance. He is still raw obviously but with hard work and luck, Stephen Warnock will develop into a very good player for Liverpool (and England).

Igor Biscan
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Igor could and probably should have got his name in the scoresheet but he didn't bring his scoring boots. (Those boots have not been around for quite a while). But he does look like a much more confident player under Rafa Benitez. But let's see what happens when Xabi Alonso stamps his authority on the English game and cements his place in the Liverpool side.

Man of the Match: The inspirational Steven Gerrard. Check out the match highlights and chances are that most of the clips will include the G-force in it.

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