TERRACE TALK: Man City - Cursed Anfield remains our theatre of screams

And so the pain goes on for City at Anfield, the ground they just cannot function properly in.

A paralysis takes over, a numbness of the mind sets in, a deep-rooted fear takes a grip that is so all-pervading, that countless upgrades of manager, regime, and playing staff have changed absolutely nothing.

And so it was that City introduced Pep Guardiola to the Anfield rap sheet: two league wins here since 1956 and no sign of the this incredible tsunami of bad fortune and ill will being either slowed, stopped or turned around.

In fact in the first half it was simply more of the same. City playing with geriatric full backs against a side so energised that it looked like the first takes from yet another Keystone Cops movie.

Throw in the Benny Hill theme tune and we were off. Liverpool’s high pressing, relentless approach to the match meant City had little or no time to move, think or breathe, during a first half that flowed in one direction only.

Once again, as had happened against Arsenal, the opposition’s first meaningful attack of the game brought a goal, a towering header from Georginio Wijnaldum.

However, you had to dissect its source and course to see how City, and one player in particular, had contributed.

With a ball played long up the left, Aleksander Kolarov produced a cushioned pass inside to nobody in particular.

This loose ball was picked up, carried and dispatched across the park in a matter of seconds to the marauding Adam Lallana, who ran at a bamboozled Pablo Zabaleta.

The Argentinian is a City stalwart and should not really be put through this final season of embarrassment, his legs getting slower and slower as the opposition get nippier and nippier.

Standing off Lallana to give a him a decent sight of the penalty area, Zabaleta watched in horror as the ball was played in for Wijnaldum to leap like a salmon and score. Underneath him, meanwhile, leaping like a fish attached to a rucksack full of bricks was Kolarov, the original culprit of lost possession.

Not only were City’s fullbacks too old and slow for this kind of game, for this kind of season, they had contributed royally to what transpired 82 minutes later to have been the winning goal.

In a fascinating second half, Guardiola pulled a tactical trick of some order. The Argentinian Ricardo la Volpe had been famous for getting his centre backs to split and advance towards the touchlines, allowing a defensive midfielder to drop back into the central gap left behind and the fullbacks to drift inside and aid midfield.

These La Volpian tubes were now massaged by City, with John Stones in particular having some success in a strolling, roving role as Yaya Toure, tiring of looking like a man who has lost his luggage in a busy ferry terminal, dropped into the hole for a rest. Otamendi, often a law unto himself, tried to fit in with the Catalan’s tactical tinkering, but mainly continued to do his own thing.

Thus, City were able to take it to Liverpool in the second half in a stirring if fruitless turn of fortunes.

With Silva prodding and Sterling responding to the merciless booing every time he strode forward, City were unrecognisable from the passive heap of the first 45 minutes.

Mindful, however, of their truly atrocious record at this ground, Aguero was holding off up front, with a lethargic display that will have tongues wagging about how City’s movers and shakers could think it worth starting Pep’s first title challenging season with just the little Argentinian and the raw Kelechi Iheanacho as strikers.

There was much for the manager to chew on here. As his shopping list grows (two pacey, young full backs, a centre half of Van Dijk’s authority (if not of Van Dijk’s price) and a forward (cheap as chips at this time of the year), so does City’s Anfield History of Shame.

Meanwhile City fans will remember the exploits of 2003 and 1981 fondly, as they may well prove to have been the last time ever a City side appeared from the Liverpool dressing rooms clutching anything other than a tray with their own backsides on it.


© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

Email Updates

Receive our lunchtime briefing straight to your inbox

More in this Section

Bray boost but trapdoor beckons for dismal Drogs

Wenger has ‘perfect’ answer

Poch wants Wembley wonders

Jose Mourinho: Blues still team to beat


Breaking Stories

Fitzmaurice quick to defend Kerry full back line

Mayo manager not concerned about mounting workload

Chelsea beat Tottenham in their first league game at Wembley

Mo Farah may not compete for Great Britain again after switching to marathon

Lifestyle

Classical Review: Ensemble Marsyas

Album Review: Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins

In Vogue: Changing of the guard at iconic fashion magazine

Lidl and Heidi Klum - has the High Street reached peak collaboration?

More From The Irish Examiner