Liverpool v Manchester City
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Insua, Mascherano, Lucas (Alonso 74), Kuyt, Babel (Benayoun 68), Gerrard (Voronin 78), Torres.
unused subs: Itandje, Skrtel
City: Hart, Jihai, Dunne (c), Corluka, Ball, Johnson, Ireland, Petrov (Castillo 67), Vassell (Garrido 81), Elano (Hamann 67), Benjani.
unused subs: Isaksson, Fernandes.
Goals: 1-0 (Torres 58)
Referee: M Halsey
Summary: Liverpool rode their luck after Elano had rattled the woodwork, Torres showing his class to give the hosts a narrow win. City showed plenty of spirit and Joe Hart showed why he is so highly rated once again.
Pre match: City made one change to the side that had started against Fulham, Richard Dunne returning after his injury at the expense of Gelson Fernandes, with a reshuffle seeing Ball at left back, Jihai on the right of defence and Elano back in his free role.
Liverpool fielded a strong side, but there was no place in the 16 for star of the match programme's front cover, Peter Crouch.
The game’s first incident of note came when Jihai was late on Babel, who stayed down as referee Halsey waved play on until Benjani put the ball out. The Liverpool midfielder eventually resumed, and Jihai got away with no more than a talking to.
The predatory Torres looked to have half a chance of a volley inside the box on 16 minutes, but Jihai timed his challenge well this time and clear the danger.
Babel spurned the best chance so far on 20 minutes, Kuyt whipping in a cross from the right that the Dutchman, having eluded Dunne, glanced across and over the bar.
The game went quiet for a long period until Joe Hart showed once again why he is so highly regarded. Steven Gerrard found space and curled a shot from just inside the area, it appeared to be going in but the City keeper made a magnificent one handed save to his left to push the ball around the left hand post.
Michael Johnson was appealing for a penalty on 38 minutes when his cross struck Hyypia, but replays confirmed that the ball had struck the Finn on the shoulder. Corluka prevented Torres from getting a chance just before the break, sticking out a leg at the last second to stop Gerrard’s through ball.
It had been a quiet first half, but Liverpool came out much the livelier with Torres shaking off Corluka to slide a shot wide of the post. Seconds later he was free in the box once more, but Dunne timed his tackle perfectly to block.
But City hit back and were the width of the post away from taking the lead. A foul on Petrov led to a free kick in Elano territory, and despite struggling with a knock himself, the Brazilian’s effort curled over the wall and struck the post with Reina beaten.
Sadly for City, Liverpool made the most of their luck and scored in the 58th minute. Kuyt won a header and the ball fell to Fernando Torres, who fended off Dunne and shot through Joe Hart’s legs and into the bottom corner of the net.
The City keeper kept it at 0-1 two minutes later with an outstanding double save, firstly palming away Kuyt’s shot before keeping Lucas’ bicycle kick out.
The Blues were really under the cosh now, and on 64 minutes the hosts left the woodwork rattling when Kuyt’s diving header rebounded away. A minute later Babel skied a great chance a long way over.
The home fans had finally woken up with the goal, and on 67 minutes they gave a standing ovation to Didi Hamann when the former Liverpool favourite came on at his old home for the first time since leaving in 2006.
Benjani won a free kick with nine minutes left, and with Petrov & Elano off he took it himself. It looked to be heading into the corner but Reina was equal to it and beat it away.
At the other end Hart was in the action again, diving away to his right to keep out Mascherano’s fierce effort from long range.
Two corners in quick succession for City in the dying minutes came to nothing. Castillo’s volley was blocked by Finnan in stoppage time after Benjani had done well down the right to find him, but that was the last meaningful action of the match.
mcfc.co.uk man of the match - Joe Hart. A place in the senior England squad must be close now after another good day for the Under 21 stopper.