Skrtel from hero to zero as City force Reds draw

Martin Skrtel, scorer of Liverpool's opening goal, gifted Premier League champions Manchester City their second equaliser, and a point, in an absorbing 2-2 draw at Anfield on Sunday.

The Liverpool defender had performed superbly until the 80th minute when, under pressure from Edin Dzeko, he inexplicably played the ball back directly to Carlos Tevez, who rounded Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina and slotted in his 100th goal in English football to share the points.

But the consolation for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, still searching for his first league victory since taking charge of the Reds, was that this was a much improved display following last week's 3-1 loss to West Bromwich Albion.

Skrtel opened the scoring with a powerful and unstoppable header from a perfectly-delivered right-wing Steven Gerrard corner in the 34th minute, a goal which was thoroughly deserved given the enterprising manner in which Rodgers's team had undertaken their daunting meeting with the champions.

Yaya Toure pulled City level in the 63rd minute but it took the home team just three more to regain the lead through a magnificently-struck Luis Suarez free-kick after Jack Rodwell had been harshly judged to have handled as he blocked a Gerrard shot.

It was a dangerous position, some 22 yards from goal, and Suarez, who had looked low on confidence to that point, needed no second invitation to curl a superb strike around the City wall and beyond England goalkeeper Joe Hart into the bottom right-hand corner.

Anfield had an air of the big occasion about it for Rodgers's home league bow, not least of all because the manager handed a full debut to teenage winger Raheem Stering, an almost cult figure with the Liverpool faithful.

It was easy to see why, in the 18th minute, when the 17-year-old planted the perfect left-wing cross onto the toe of Fabio Borini who volleyed wide from four yards.

The miss might have proved costly as City launched a counter-attack with Tevez taking James Milner's through pass and succeeding in rounding Reina.

The Argentine forward was forced wide but then saw his cross-shot almost put in by Martin Kelly whose attempted headed clearance struck the post and was gathered by a grateful Reina.

It was a fast-paced opening with Liverpool's game plan upset after just four minutes when Lucas limped off with pulled leg muscle to be replaced by Jonjo Shelvey.

But as Liverpool gained momentum, City were forced onto the back foot and into conceding the opening goal.

In the second half Mario Balotelli, performing admirable but unfamiliar defensive duties, inadvertently played his team into trouble when the ball deflected off him into the path of Suarez but the Liverpool forward crossed into an empty area.

City manager Roberto Mancini threw on Rodwell and Dzeko in an attempt to breathe life into s fading performance and the tactic paid instant dividends with Yaya Toure's equaliser.

Tevez broke down the right and his cross was dealt with unconvincingly by Reina, a half-hearted punch which rebounded off Martin Kelly and into the path of the alert Toure who converted from six yards.

City only remained level for three minutes before conceding a second goal although Skrtel's moment of indecision helped make things all square again.

Thereafter, Skrtel tried to make amends with an 18-yard shot which cleared the City bar while Dzeko twice came close as City attempted to win a league game by a 3-2 scoreline for the fourth consecutive match.

Liverpool substitute striker Andy Carroll might have secured the three points in the other direction in the closing minutes, however, as he rose to meet a Suarez cross and saw his header cleared off the line by Vincent Kompany.

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