As Manchester City welcome Liverpool to the Etihad this weekend, we’re taking a look back at a classic meeting of the two sides. Some of the best performances come when a team is under pressure and back at the very end of December 2007, the Merseysiders really put Sven Goran-Eriksson’s side under pressure. One man stood out, however.
City had been going great guns in the Premier League by that point – especially at home. Under the former England manager’s guidance, the Blues had won their first nine home games and only dropped points in the tenth, as Mark Hughes’s Blackburn came and stole a 2-2 draw. The club’s four defeats by that point had all come on the road.
When Liverpool arrived, they were being fired on by their new star signing: Fernando Torres. It’s very easy to think of the ‘flop’ that played for Chelsea in his latter days in English football and misremember how the striker performed; the one that Rafa Benitez managed on Merseyside was incredible.
He didn’t get a kick, because Richard Dunne put in one of the best central defensive performances that the City of Manchester Stadium has ever seen. Wherever the Spaniard went, the centre-half followed, tackled him, and left him in a heap on the ground.
It’s not often a goalless draw is deemed a classic, but with their backs against the wall City were admirable. If anything, they won the game 0-0.
There were several opportunities for Liverpool to end City’s unbeaten run at home that year, but they weren’t able to take them thanks to the inspirational defending from the captain. It had gone on all game, but it started to get silly towards the end of the match.
As Torres raced through into the right side of the area, Dunne caught up with him and chopped the ball behind for a corner after out-muscling the striker. A few moments later, a ball from deep was headed across the City box where Hart was required to make a brilliant stop. However, he was stranded and Dirk Kuyt was ready to pounce.
Of course, Dunne was in place to wallop it clear from the line.
It got better still from the defender. As the 90-minute mark approached, a low ball into the middle was ready for Yossi Benayoun to convert at the near post. He actually got his shot away and Hart was stranded, but Dunne’s boot diverted it wide – as the skipper slid in to block.
Speaking to the Blue Moon Podcast, the captain was delighted with the display.
“Because you’re playing against such a top striker, it’s one of those where you’re just focused and determined to make sure that he doesn’t get a chance to make a show of you. On the day, it turned out really well and we managed to keep him quiet.”
After the match, manager Sven Goran-Eriksson thought his team battled well.
“I think we defended very well. It was a good game but there were not a lot of chances. I am happy with one point and happy with a clean sheet, which is good against Liverpool. We’re not disappointed. When you play like we did against a team like Liverpool, you can’t be disappointed. But I’m not 100 per cent happy, because we wanted to win the game.”
Meanwhile, Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was frustrated.
“We had a lot of chances, played well and had lots of possession. I’m pleased with the team but disappointed with the result. We had enough chances to win against a good team who are difficult to beat at home, and the commitment of all the players was fantastic. A clean sheet when you are playing away from home is a good thing but after 17 attempts on goal, you think you must win.”
Here are some highlights of the game.
City: Hart, Onuoha, Richards, Dunne (c), Ball, Ireland (Gelson 61), Hamann, Corluka, Petrov, Elano (Bianchi 70), Vassell (Geovanni 74).
Unused: Isaksson, Garrido
On this day, the British public had clearly gone mad as Soulja Boy’s song Crank That reached its peak position at number three in the UK chart.
At the UK cinema, fans could have celebrated by watching the new release I Am Legend starring Will Smith.
Written by David Mooney.