City fans make point as Torres equals record and earns three
Liverpool 1 Manchester City 0
Perhaps every foreign owner should make known his baffling intention to sack the club's much-respected manager at the end of the season – it at least adds some life to these "dead" games. Rarely has such an irrelevant and inevitable away defeat been played out to such a backing sound of discontent from the visiting section.
The result was not what mattered here; not to the Manchester City faithful anyway. They came to make their point and did not care much if three more were thrown away. As it was they should have simply been relieved that the damage wreaked by Liverpool was not greater.
Fernando Torres duly equalled Roger Hunt's 46-year record of scoring in eight consecutive home League games, but on another afternoon – dare it be suggested, a more "meaningful" one – Liverpool might have notched three or more. That would have given Thaksin Shinawatra more ammunition when it comes to his much-mooted firing of Sven Goran Eriksson in the summer.
If this show of defiance is anything to go by, however, the Thai will need many more bullets before Eastlands condones the dismissal of the manager who could still yet equal City's highest-ever Premier League finish – eighth.
Due to a certain American influence, Anfield has become all too used to these supporter demonstrations of late. Still, at least the City revolutionaries did not disgrace themselves in the backyard of the cutting witticism. The banners and T-shirts were clever enough – "SOS: Save Our Sven", while the mass of Sweden shirts were a nice touch. But their chant was straight out of the Scouser hymn book.
To the tune of "Another Brick in The Wall", the blue half of the Anfield Road end sang: "We don't need no Phil Scolari, We don't know Mourinho. Hey Thaksin, Leave our Sven alone."
It is a shame that Thaksin was not there to see or hear it. Eriksson was and waved to his backers before kick-off. Afterwards he was not so expressive, refusing to talk directly about his departure. "After next Sunday is the time to talk," he said. "I have not been told not to say anything. At my age I'm too old to be told what to do."
He then reprimanded his agent, Athole Still, for saying he is definitely leaving – "He should work, not talk" – and from there went on to thank the fans. But when asked if he though their support would make any difference to his fate, he said, "I don't think so."
Eriksson did all but admit that he would be sad to leave after one year. "The reason why I came to Manchester City was for the project, to be building something new. We have had a good season. We cannot finish any worse than ninth."
Eriksson might even have fancied rising a few more places during the first half when, superbly marshalled of captain Richard Dunne, they contained Liverpool well enough, although Steven Gerrard did see his curler from 20 yards kept out by the fingertips of Joe Hart in the 32nd minute.
After the break, however, it was a different story, a lot more gory as City were concerned, with Javier Mascherano, in particular, to the fore. Torres first got away in the 47th minute but sidefooted it wide, but 11 minutes later was back to his clinical self.
Leaping on Michael Ball's mistake, he effortlessly pulled away from Dunne and found the inside of Hart's far post from a prohibitive angle.
His 32nd goal of the season had put Liverpool on the way. Saying that, had Elano's free-kick been ever so slightly more accurate five minutes before, and not clipped the post, then that may have been a mere equaliser.
No matter, one felt that if Liverpool had had to score again they would have. The chances came thick and very, very fast.
Dirk Kuyt had one spectacular effort repelled, then a header hit the bar, Ryan Babel skied over from six yards, while Lucas almost converted with an audacious overhead kick.
Interestingly, Peter Crouch, John Arne Riise and Jermaine Pennant did figure in Benitez's squad. Are they off, too? The speculation is everywhere.
Goals: Torres (58) 1-0.
Liverpool (4-5-1): Reina; Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Insua; Kuyt, Mascherano, Gerrard (Voronin, 77), Lucas (Alonso, 73), Babel (Benayoun, 67); Torres. Substitutes not used: Itandje (gk), Skrtel.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Hart; Sun Jihai, Dunne, Corluka, Ball; Vassell (Garrido, 81), Ireland, Johnson, Petrov (Castillo, 66); Elano (Hamann, 66); Benjani. Substitutes not used: Isakson (gk), Fernandes.
Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).
Man of the match: Torres