Saturday 21st August 2004 (3pm)
Anfield, Liverpool

Baros tangles before his equaliser

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Benitez competitive matches record: Played 3 Won 2 Drawn 1
MATCH REPORT - Liverpool 2-1 Man City

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Anelka 45
Baros 48
Gerrard 75

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The Englishmen may be gone and the Spanish wait in the directors box for their chance to take centre stage, but it was skipper Steven Gerrard who struck the crucial winner for the home guard.

Michael Owen, Emile Heskey and Danny Murphy have been shorn from this Liverpool squad, and new boss Rafael Benitez insists he must be trusted when he plumps for Spanish imports now.

And although City were hugely upset by the sending off of Richard Dunne - on a linesman's intervention - Liverpool under Benitez deservedly got off the mark with a home win on the former Valencia coach's Anfield bow.

City had led at the break through Nicolas Anelka - Jerzy Dudek's place could be in doubt now after a second mistake in successive games - and it looked like Kevin Keegan's men were going to embarrass the new Liverpool boss.

But a highly-charged second-half saw Milan Baros equalise, before helping create the winner for a rampant Gerrard.

But even though City's men protested long and hard well after the final whistle to unmoved referee Graham Poll, the right team won a fierce, competitive Barclays Premiership clash.

Benitez watched Liverpool control possession, spin passes around and search for spaces behind the full-backs - but he saw few chances created.

The Kop got an early sight of Djibril Cisse in full flow, but he surged down the right and went for glory rather than picking out the unmarked Harry Kewell, screaming for the ball in the middle.

Xabi Alonso and Carlos Garcia - both signed 24 hours earlier - were watching from the directors box as Gerrard produced one of his trademark 25-yard piledrivers, which David James saved easily.

Josemi, the only Spanish signing of four actually on the pitch, surged forward with a clever chip and run - but he walked straight into Dunne and the threat was gone.

Chances were rare, with a whipped-in Kewell corner fizzed across the face missed by everyone.

Shaun Wright-Phillips took some time to get into the game after impressing for England in midweek, and one shuddering challenge by international colleague Gerrard brought swift intervention from Poll.

But slowly Wright-Phillips started to claim the ball and worry the right of Liverpool's defence with his trademark jinking, persistent runs.

Ben Thatcher and Dunne were booked for uncompromising challenges on Josemi and Baros, before Kewell fired a dipping 25-yard effort over the bar and Sami Hyypia lashed high over.

City's first chance came when Anelka swung in a corner and Antoine Sibierski rose to head wide of a post.

But soon after the French striker had more significant input when City managed to grab the lead on the stroke of half-time.

Claudio Reyna and Wright-Phillips combined well with the latter lifting the ball into the box - and Jamie Carragher's flick left Dudek in a fumbling mess, with Anelka stealing in to angle the ball home.

The Kop gave James a warm welcome - but he was soon under pressure, with Dietmar Hamann firing wide after Kewell's corner had only been half-cleared.

Liverpool were level in the 48th minute through Baros.

A poor clearance from Reyna was snapped up by Gerrard, who fed the Czech - and the striker scampered into the box to lift his shot over the exposed James.

Twice in as many minutes Baros went down under challenges from Sylvain Distin - but Poll waved play on both times.

Josemi, struggling with a back problem after a tangle with Anelka, was then replaced by Salif Diao, who went to the centre of defence with Carragher moving to right-back.

Steve Finnan fired high over before James was needed to make two splendid saves when Cisse and Baros were sent clear.

Bosvelt was booked for a foul on Finnan, with the City central midfielder and his colleague Reyna struggling for pace against Gerrard.

And that was where Liverpool finally took advantage in the 75th minute.

Hamann and Baros got through the middle virtually unhindered, James blocked the Czech's shot and it bounced out for Gerrard to surge in and convert.

Keegan responded by sending on Joey Barton and Trevor Sinclair for Bosvelt and Sibierski.

But the visitors lost Dunne five minutes from time after a linesman decided the Irishman had pulled down Cisse, despite Poll initially deciding there was no offence from a much closer position.

Dunne angrily protested and had to be pulled away by Mills as Poll produced a second yellow card - and then the red.

City tried to get back into it, but Liverpool had the points for their new boss now - and they did not let them go.

Press Association

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Liverpool Dudek, Josemi (Diao 61), Hyypia, Carragher, Riise, Finnan (Warnock 77), Hamann, Gerrard, Kewell (Biscan 90), Baros, Cisse.

Subs Not Used: Sinama Pongolle, Harrison.

Booked: Hamann.

Man City James, Thatcher, Distin, Dunne, Mills, Sibierski (Barton 82), Bosvelt (Sinclair 82), Reyna, Wright-Phillips, Anelka, Fowler.

Subs Not Used: Macken, Jihai, Stuhr-Ellegaard.

Sent Off: Dunne (85).

Booked: Thatcher, Dunne, Bosvelt.

Att: 42,831

Ref: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

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Match Report filed: 22nd August 2004