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FULL-TIME: Arsenal fully deserve this point. They have played with panache and a confidence that wasn’t seen in the first couple weeks of the EPL. Their passing was smooth, inventive and they played a positive game against a might Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. City, after giving away late goals at Real Madrid in midweek have again conceded in the last 10 minutes— something Roberto Mancini will certainly look at after today’s failure to take three points.
85 minutes: What an attempt from Kompany! Just collects a ball on his chest and executes a bicycle kick. The save from Mannone falls to Aguero and the Argentine misfires from 5 yards out. Oh my word!
GOAL!! 82 minutes: Mancini is furious as Silva passes it out of play… he clearly sees that his team are on the back-foot now. Yaya Toure drives ahead on the break shortly after and he tries setting up Aguero but its saved. Then Arsenal get a corner which hits City’s defender and falls to Laurent Koscielny. The centre-back pulls out a spectacular shot to beat Hart and equalise. Stunning! It’s 1-1.
75 minutes: Arsenal are going all out now. Carl Jenkison, who has been such a threat on the right side of the pitch aims a great ball into the box. It falls to Gervinho on the far post and Olivier Giroud gets ahead of the cross when it comes in. It takes a deflection though and is out for a corner. City rally.
70 minutes: Tevez is out of the rain shelter and onto the pitch now. Dzeko gets a standing ovation from the Citizens. He’s had a fine game, holding up the ball and narrowly missing out on a goal earlier in the first half. Podolski and Diaby are off for Arsenal as Walcott and Giroud will try and find the equaliser.
63 minutes: It’s become a bit sloppy in Manchester. The rain is pouring down and Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli are taking shelter in the dug-out. Didn’t mention it earlier, but Jack Rodwell is on for Scott Sinclair.
55 minutes: David Silva collects the ball on the break and plays Aguero through. He firmly sees off the first challenge but the shot is then blocked by Gibbs. Javi Garcia won the tackle before that break and also won the header from the corner which followed the shot. He seems like a fine purchase.
50 minutes: Man City have obviously grown in confidence after taking the lead. They work another corner, which took a glancing header before falling to Aguero. The Argentine’s tight snap-shot is over the bar.
HALF-TIME: Arsenal continued to attack after the goal, but they can’t seem to find a way past Lescott, who is pumped up after his goal. As the players walk out at half-time, Arsene Wenger will be wondering what his side did wrong apart from that one mistake of not marking Lescott.
GOAL!! 40 minutes: Arsenal concede a needless corner after a period of good possession for City. David Silva whips it in and Joleon Lescott rises highest to thump home. It’s 1-0 to Manchester City.
35 minutes: Gervinho is finally playing like the player Arsenal thought they had bought last year. Cazorla releases him on the left and he cuts in before sending a shot just wide of the post. Meanwhile, City have been careless in their passing… easily giving the ball away to Arsenal in good areas.
30 minutes: It must be said Arsenal are absolutely dominating this fixture. City have sporadically worked the ball around, but it’s Santi Cazorla, Gervinho and Podolski who look more threatening. Cazorla works it in for Gervinho but his attempted cross was blocked by City’s defence. This match is very open.
25 minutes: Interesting from Arsenal. They are not afraid to commit men forward at the Etihad. Lukas Podolski gets a gilt edged chance from inside the box but his right-footer is high, wide and not so handsome.
20 minutes: Ramsey brilliantly slices the City defence to set up Gervinho but the Ivorian’s touch is too heavy and Hart comes racing out of his line to collect. Minutes later, Sinclair had the chance to put Dzeko through but chooses Aguero which was a much harder pass— and it gets intercepted.
15 minutes: Aguero gets his first shot on target. Cuts in to his favourite right foot from outside the box and Mannone had to be aware of the danger. Ensuing corner is harmless.
12 minutes: Scrappy so far. Arsenal have looked good on the counter though. Kieran Gibbs on the overlap is always dangerous but he should have crossed it in for Podolski when he had the chance. The German star is not happy at all.
5 minutes: Aguero’s inclusion will surely boost City, but they’ve left out the talismanic Tevez. Dzeko, who scored against Real Madrid in midweek has been rewarded with a start. There have been a few early crosses, but still 0-0 now.
Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Javi Garcia, Toure, Silva, Sinclair, Aguero, Dzeko. Subs: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Rodwell, Barry, Nastasic, Tevez, Balotelli.
Arsenal:Mannone, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Ramsey, Diaby, Arteta, Cazorla, Gervinho, Podolski. Subs: Martinez, Andre Santos, Giroud, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Djourou, Coquelin.
FULL-TIME: That’s it at Anfield! Man United go home with three vital points in the bag. They have won their first encounter against a big club this season and that should give Ferguson some respite. Their league start has been good but not until this win will it have really kicked up the momentum. As it stands, United are second on the table— one point behind Chelsea and two ahead of Everton. City are yet to play and could leapfrog Everton in third.
5 minutes added on
85 minutes: Was it a penalty? Or was it not? From the referee’s point of view, it certainly looked like that Valencia made most of it. Liverpool have tried to counter, but United are now sitting back.
GOAL!! 80 minutes: Raw power. Van Persie steps up after a slight break where Agger came off injured for Carragher and he’s slammed in a penalty to the left of Reina. That was unstoppable.
PENALTY! 74 minutes: Valencia keeps going all the way to end despite having Giggs and RVP in the box but then he is felled by Johnson and the penalty’s been given. Van Persie steps up.
70 minutes: Suso/Saez looks like a fine prospect. He threads a pass to Suarez but the Uruguayan’s cross from the byline doesn’t find anyone. United build up play on the other end but nothing comes off it. They need to take more shots.
65 minutes: Suarez cuts in from the right and unleashes a left-footed low strike but Lindegaard beats it away. Saez has come on for Liverpool and looks very lively. He’s set up by Suarez before his shot is turned over by Lindegaard— who has been a busy man today. Jordan Henderson comes on for Stirling.
60 minutes: Suarez has gone down twice in the box but the referee doesn’t budge. He hasn’t booked him so that’s not a dive and the game carries on. United attack and a cross from the left is just away from Van Persie. Both teams at it now.
GOAL!! 52 minutes: Oh what a reply! Rafael works the ball forward, and when it’s crossed in, he is there to take down Kagawa’s chested ball and curl in an unstoppable left-footer past the hapless dive of Pepe Reina. 1-1 and game on!
GOAL!! 47 minutes: Epic! Just epic! If there was one player who one would pick to score in this match, it would be Steven Gerrard. The ball is worked in from left-back and when Glen Johnson plays it in, Gerrard collects on the chest, swivels and strikes a left-footer beyond Lindegaard. 1-0 to Liverpool.
HALF-TIME: Tons of chances for Liverpool but they haven’t been able to make it count. Fabio Borini pulled a brilliant cross in the box but Stirling is just an inch behind it and Gerrard was nowhere. United have survived the barrage in the first 45 minutes and Liverpool haven’t looked like one-man down.
42 minutes: Suarez whips in a free-kick from about 30 yards out and it’s beaten away by Lindegaard. United then hit Liverpool on the counter as Kagawa, Nani and RVP combine. The ball falls to the Japanese midfielder on the bounce but he can’t control it and is crowded out in the box.
RED CARD! 40 minutes: What has been a fantastic competition so far has one-man down now. Jonjo Shelvey makes a high, studs-up challenge on Jonny Evans and sees red. Looks like a yellow card for me, but well, the referee has just gone into his back-pocket and pulled out the dreaded colour.
35 minutes: Two more set-pieces for Liverpool… one of them from just outside the box as Evra lunges into Stirling but nothing comes off it. Suarez then wins a corner which Gerrard over-hits and it has harmlessly gone over everyone.
30 minutes: Robin van Persie almost collects a ball on his left foot but can’t quite control it to shoot. United have had no attacking threat since that Giggs shot. Liverpool are pressing so hard it’s tough to find a yard to make a pass.
25 minutes: Stirling and Suarez are making Liverpool tick with the help of Gerrard. The Liverpool skipper is roaming forward as Shelvey and Allen cover for him in defence. A mazy Suarez run sees him take a fine shot but it’s wide and over.
20 minutes: Gerrard is running riot in the danger areas for Liverpool. He pumps in an absolutely brilliant ball in the box and Agger is there tussling with Evans. The Liverpool defender goes down but the referee waves away the protests.
15 minutes: These 15 minutes have produced some great football. Borini breaks the offside trap to sneak in behind Ferdinand but the tackle has been made before it’s hacked away. Maybe United are just sitting back to soak up the early pressure. Liverpool will certainly slow down in another quarter of an hour. Giggs has a rising shot which just goes over.
10 minutes: Helter-skelter already!! First Suarez pumps in a low ball which hits Lindegaard and is in the path of Gerrard before Evans gets there. Moments later Gerrard runs onto a low corner and his fizzing shot hits the side-netting. Brilliant play from the hosts.
5 minutes: Skip in the step of every Liverpool player. And why not? The fans have been continuously singing for the past 10 minutes and it must be awe-inspiring at Anfield. Gerrard pumps in a cross after taking a short corner but Rafael has cleared it.
KICK-OFF! 5.50 PM: There must be a reason to leave Vidic out. He is of course the player to have received most number of red cards in this fixture. But the other obvious question is why David de Gea doesn’t merit a place in the starting line-up today. Surely the Spaniard has done exceptionally well so far?
Nemanja Vidic rested by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson apparently. For what exactly?
— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) सितम्बर 23, 2012
5.45 PM: Anfield is really geared up for this occasion. Vidic and Steven Gerrard were set to release 96 balloons before kick-off but now that the former has been ‘rested’ for no apparent reason, Ryan Giggs will do the honours.
Just looking at the United shirt left outside the Hillsborough memorial, dedicated to the families: written on it:Justice at Last
— David Conn (@david_conn) सितम्बर 23, 2012
Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson, Gerrard, Allen, Shelvey, Borini, Suarez, Sterling. Subs: Jones, Jose Enrique, Sahin, Assaidi, Henderson, Carragher, Fernandez Saez.
Man Utd: Lindegaard, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Carrick, Giggs, Valencia, Kagawa, Nani, van Persie. Subs: De Gea, Anderson, Hernandez, Welbeck, Scholes, Cleverley, Buttner.
5.30 PM:Some team news filtering in. No Nemanja Vidic in the Man United squad. That means Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand will be in the heart of defence. Anders Lindegaard comes in for David De Gea. Rumour mill also says Ryan Giggs is recalled. Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa will start.
Pre-match: Despite all the rivalries in European football that Manchester United may have developed over the course of hundred years, there is no bigger match than Liverpool versus United.
There is no hiding from the fact that Liverpool have not quite been the major title-challengers in the past few seasons — hence reducing the fixture’s importance by a wee bit. But when the two teams meet on Sunday— pride, glory, three points and bragging rights take a back seat.
This match isn’t about winning. Rather it’s about whether the fans of these clubs can gulp their enmity, think about those who died in Munich and Hillsborough and behave like supporters of world-class teams. Read the full preview here.