Belfast Telegraph

Manchester City fail to impress but still punish sloppy Liverpool

By Steven Beacom

Champion stuff from Manchester City. Nowhere near their breathtaking best, they still proved way too classy and clinical for the side that ran them closest in the Premier League last season. Talk about firing out an ominous warning.

'We have the title and plan to keep it' was the message at the Ethiad Stadium last night as the boys in blue beat Liverpool 3-1 with a double from Stevan Jovetic and a strike from super sub Sergio Aguero just 23 seconds after making his entrance.

When City became champions in 2012, their defence of the crown was an embarrassment especially when then manager Roberto Mancini and a certain Mario Balotelli were involved in a training ground bust up.

Both volatile Italians left and last summer in came calm Chilean Manuel Pellegrini – title winner in his first season and determined to enjoy the same glory this term too.

Liverpool were City's chief challengers last time around, but they will need to improve dramatically at both ends of the pitch if they are to be in the mix again.

The achilles heel for the Reds in the 2013-2014 campaign was sloppy mistakes at the back and even though Brendan Rodgers has strengthened in that area lately, the silly errors are still there.

It's early days of course but the Ulsterman will not be happy that his side, unconvincing 2-1 winners over Southampton on opening weekend, have already conceded four goals with just two games played. Only Crystal Palace and QPR have let in more to date.

Liverpool have to become tighter in defence and quickly otherwise they could find themselves too far behind the likes of City and Chelsea to mount another serious challenge. Failing that they will have to score as many goals as they did last season and that will be extremely difficult without the stunning skills and knowhow of Luis Suarez.

Rodgers has made some shrewd signings, and without question Liverpool have a superior squad to last season, but with Suarez in Barcelona, you could argue they have an inferior team.

Whether latest recruit Balotelli can lift and inspire Liverpool like Suarez remains to be seen.

Liverpool started confidently last night, but lacked a killer ball or deadly finish until Pablo Zabaleta's late own goal.

By then the game was over and the points won by City thanks to Jovetic, in the first half, being alert enough to capitalise on debutant Alberto Moreno failing to clear. The same forward was clever enough after the break to finish a flowing move which ripped the Reds to shreds.

Goal number three from Aguero came when the visitors fell asleep after the Argentine came on for Edin Dzeko.

Liverpool could do with waking up sooner rather than later.

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