|Mancini takes the blame as Liverpool demolish lacklustre City|
An impeccably served minutes silence commemorating the 96 Liverpool fans who, on the 15th April twenty-two years ago, never returned from the FA Cup semi-final match at Hillsborough preceded Liverpool’s demolition job of Manchester City. The poignant remembrance inspired Liverpool and they started brightly, carving their way through City’s shambolic defence on numerous occasions before Andy Carroll’s fierce left-footed strike from outside the area fizzed past Joe Hart’s flailing right arm and into the bottom corner. It was a bad start from City, made worse by the loss of their talismanic skipper Carlos Tévez who succumbed to what appeared to be a torn hamstring. With the severity of the injury awaiting assessment it seems that bustling Argentinian will almost certainly miss City’s FA Cup semi-final trip to Wembley on Saturday, and could be out a while longer. City fans will be hoping that it does not rule him out for the remainder of the season – an injury that would prove to be a major dent in the club’s bid to finish in the top four and a trophy.
City looked shell-shocked, and their misery was compounded after 35 minutes when Liverpool managed to score twice in the space of 60 seconds. First Kuyt with a cool side-footed finish after City’s inept defence failed on three occasions to clear the ball out of the box. Then a sweet cross from the left wing saw Carroll power a header past Hart into the top the corner to make it three. It was Carroll’s second of the game and his Liverpool career.
Seeing his side trail by three goals after 35 minutes must have left Mancini wondering why he left the likes of Silva and de Jong on the bench. City’s midfield was shown up by the dogged determination of Jay Spearing and Lucas Leiva, and their makeshift defence – including the debutant right back Flanagan – was hardly tested as City looked toothless in attack without midfield maestro Silva and the inspirational Tévez.
It was a night to forget for Manchester City in rainy Liverpool and it exposed the weakness of the squad. This team still needs a lot of work if it is to challenge for the title next season. The performance was spineless and impotent, and no doubt Sir Alex Ferguson will be hoping that this City side turns up on Saturday. If it does, he will be laughing his way to the final. On paper City’s squad seems to be one of the strongest, unfortunately for the Blues (as the saying goes), the game is not played on paper. You cannot qualify for the Champions League on paper and you certainly cannot win the FA Cup on paper.
Mancini admitted in his post-match interview that he had made mistakes and should be held responsible for the defeat; he went no further with this statement leaving it up to us to debate what his mistakes were. Perhaps it was his naivety in thinking that dropping two key players in the heart of the midfield would still provide City with enough creativity and solidarity to beat a resurgent Liverpool side? Or maybe it was reverting back to his cautious style, as opposed to the attacking style that saw City trounce Sunderland 5-0 only eight days previous? Or was it playing a semi-injured Carlos Tévez, who is inevitably going to miss Saturday’s derby? Either way, City fans will be praying that he can atone for his mistakes on Saturday and lead the Blues to the final of a major trophy, beating bitter rivals Manchester United in the process. Mancini is a man under pressure and the clock is ticking. Patience is starting to wear thin. Roberto Mancini might just be running out of time.