Manchester City v Liverpool
Johansen, Logan, Williamson, Mee, Berti, Tsiaklis, Weiss, Marshall, Ball, Sturridge, Morris.
unused subs: McDonald, Hartley, Poole, Obeng, Tutte..
Gulacsi, Darby, Insua, Dominguez, Kelly, Plessis, Abalimba (Duran 62), Speating, Ngog (Bruna h-t), Pacheco, Weijl.
unused subs: Bouzanis, Irwin, Ayala.
Goals: 1-0 (Sturridge 12)
Referee: D Handley
Rafa Benitez made a swift return to the City of Manchester Stadium following Sunday’s comeback against the senior side, the Liverpool boss sitting alongside Sammy Lee just in front of the press box.
The game gave a chance to several young Blues to impress the watching Mark Hughes, with Sturridge, Logan and Williamson boasting first team experience. It was also a first run-out for Glauber Berti after his arrival in late August, the Brazilian slotting in at centre-back.
Vladimir Weiss, looking to have filled out and grown taller since his last appearance here in the Youth Cup final, posed problems early on, skinning Insua and then testing Gulacsi with a cross. The Slovakian then combined with Marshall at a corner that Mee headed just wide thanks to a deflection.
A good opening for City saw Glyn Hodges’ side take the lead after 12 minutes. Marshall’s corner eventually dropped for Ben Mee try an overhead kick that was heading goalwards anyway – until Daniel Sturridge made absolutely sure by poking the ball home just inside the post.
The striker nearly turned provider two minutes later, feeding Glauber Berti inside the box, but the defender’s shot floated just over the bar. On 20 minutes Sturridge went close to adding a second, his left-footed free kick from nearly 30 yards out skimming the Liverpool crossbar.
The visitors had the better of the next phase, but the Blues defence coped well and Johansen still did not have a save to make, Berti also looking untroubled when tested.
The Reds’ number nine, David Ngog finally had his side’s first good chance on 33 minutes, breaking into the box and firing into the side-netting from an angle. The Liverpool defence allowed Sturridge to get onto his favoured left foot on the edge of the area near half-time, but this time there was no repeat of his stunner from the Youth Cup final of 2006 as the ball rolled harmlessly wide.
Five minutes into the second half and Sturridge went close again when he stabbed a shot past Gulacsi – but a brilliant goal-line clearance from Darby kept the score at 1-0.
Weiss’ clever run through the middle on 72 ended with him finding Logan in lots of space, but the defender’s cross-cum-shot rolled just wide of the post and just ahead of David Ball. Sturridge spurned a golden opportunity to seal the game with 13 minutes left, Kelly’s header to his keeper going instead straight to the City striker, now one-on-one with Gulacsi. However he delayed just enough to be forced wide and his eventual shot was saved by the Liverpool keeper. Gulasci denied Sturridge again at the resulting corner, diving low to block his volley.
Torrential rain around the 80 minute mark mad the surface skiddy , something Johansen found with two minutes to go. The Norwegian stopper slipped as he tried to clear, the ball fell to Spearing who shot for goal from a long way out – but Berti was where he needed to be to cut the chance out with his keeper still scrambling back.
It stayed at 1-0 and City had a deserved win, but credit to both sides for providing decent entertainment when conditions, especially in the last 15 minutes, were against them.