City’s terrible away from home form gave Liverpool hope that today they could continue to mount a strong title challenge to Manchester United. But after ninety minutes, the Blues gave the red side of Manchester something to cheer about denying Rafa Benetiz’s side two critical home points, and perhaps effectively ending the title race in late February.
Two seasons ago Chelsea was in a similar position and actually had games in hand on United and failed to catch Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. Liverpool now has it all to do in the next two months.
City’s performance was outstanding. Richard Dunne’s return helped organize the backline and Vincent Kompany pushed into the midfield to help steady the ship. Stephen Ireland continued his outstanding 2008-09 form and Robinho played his best match on the road in months.
But it was the performances of Craig Bellamy, Shay Given and Nigel DeJong, all January window signings that made City appear to be a presentable footballing side this afternoon. Bellamy got the goal but also showed tenacity to fight for balls going forward that was lacking in the Blues attack before his arrival. DeJong is the type of ball winner City has lacked in midfield since Claudio Reyna and Joey Barton were around and Given, is well Shay Given.
Given is one of the best keepers in English football. That has been no secret for sometime now. But those of us who were concerned he may have a delay in settling into his new club after having spent so much time at St James Park were ill founded. Perhaps Given is comfortable having played for many years with Bellamy and having no doubt rated Richard Dunne and Micah Richards highly as a centre back tandem. Or perhaps Given is so relieved to escape Mike Ashley’s prison on the Tyne that he’s giving the extra early effort.
Whatever the case, Given was simply brilliant. Reflex saves have always been his speciality but this afternoon was one of his best efforts. With the point in the bag, City can go on and focus on Thursday’s UEFA Cup clash with FC Kobenhavn and then be assured that having perhaps the best keeper from the British Isles means you are never out of any match.
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