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Hard labour for City

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Manchester City Manager Roberto Mancini (right) was not impressed with his sides performance against Brendan Rodgers Liverpool at Anfield. Photo: Getty Images

London - One of Roberto Mancini’s favourite current mantras is that champions need to improve if they are to stay ahead of the rest.

At the moment, though, the opposite is true of Manchester City. Two games into the defence of their Premier League title and the Italian’s team look a shadow of their true selves.

City more than played their part in a lively game at Anfield on Sunday. One thing last season’s championship has given them is belief - for the third league game running, City came from 2-1 down to earn something from the match.

This, however, cannot go on. If City are to successfully defend their title then rollercoaster days like this one and the one they endured at home to Southampton eight days ago will not get the job done.

Mancini will take heart from another comeback. His team remain hard to beat. Nevertheless they were given two goals by Liverpool’s defence and created precious little of note apart from that.

Some may argue that Mancini’s tinkering with his formation isn’t helping and there may be something in that. Yesterday he reverted to a three-man central defensive line that featured a reserve, Kolo Toure, and Pablo Zabaleta, who is a full back.

With Liverpool operating with just one central forward, Luis Suarez, this was puzzling, especially given that Joleon Lescott was among the substitutes and is not injured.

Frankly, City looked laboured for long periods. Dreadful in the first half, they did get better as the game wore on and perhaps even finished the game the stronger team. A point, though, was the very most they deserved.

One would imagine they will improve. Players such as David Silva and Mario Balotelli look as though they are still finding their sharpness after post-Euro 2012 lay-offs.

The same can be said of stalwart England midfielder James Milner.

Mancini, though, will hope that improvement arrives soon. Games against Stoke and Arsenal are on the horizon, as is the Champions League, and City need to find a better stride.

On Sunday they found themselves facing a Liverpool team still settling down under the guidance of a new manager, Brendan Rodgers.

After last week’s defeat at West Bromwich Albion, Liverpool’s anxious supporters came hoping for a day of reassurance - and, for a while, looked as though they might get it.

One of the most impressive things about Rodgers’ management is its confidence. Yesterday, he chose a 17-year-old, Raheem Sterling, on the left side and left three products of the Kenny Dalglish era - Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson - on the bench.

In the centre of the field, meanwhile, young Joe Allen - bought by Rodgers from his old club Swansea - looked an assured and confident footballer. Allen looked comfortable in his surroundings, passed the ball rhythmically and, though his influence waned late on, was the most impressive player on the pitch.

With City so uncertain early on, there was opportunity for Liverpool to impose themselves but two horrid defensive lapses cost them dearly.

When Martin Skrtel, under pressure on the touchline, committed the cardinal sin of passing back without looking, the lurking Carlos Tevez found himself presented with a gift of a 100th goal in English football.

For Liverpool, it was like a balloon had burst. A win yesterday would have done much for them ahead of challenges to come.

As for City, they are unbeaten after two. That is probably the most positive way to spin it.

Daily Mail


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