City and Liverpool both lose ground in battle for fourth


MANCHESTER City boss Roberto Mancini admitted his side were struggling in the absence of star striker Carlos Tevez after their top-four ambitions were stifled by Champions League rivals Liverpool.

Both sides came into the match desperate for the win that would fire their hopes of qualifying for Europe’s biggest club competition – and simultaneously deal their opponents’ aspirations a monumental blow. But neither could find a cutting edge in a 90 minutes that had all the quality of a bottom-of-the-table slugfest, only without any of the drama.

City striker Emmanuel Adebayor’s daisy-cutting volley forced the game’s only noteworthy save in the second half, while the Togo international also headed over and was denied with the goal in his sights by Martin Skrtel’s last-ditch tackle.

But with Craig Bellamy short of fitness, not to mention rumoured to have clashed with the manager, Roque Santa Cruz injured and loaned-out Robinho a distant memory, Adebayor shouldered City’s attacking workload alone – a situation Mancini is eager to rectify. Tevez returned to his native Argentina last week after his wife gave birth prematurely and the Italian admits he is clueless as to when the 19-goal striker will be back.

“I don’t know where Tevez is – I think in Argentina,” said Mancini. “It is no good. Carlos has been eight days at home and I don’t know if while in Argentina he has been working. I hope Carlos, within the next two days, can come back here because we need him. Maybe he is on the plane.”

A draw leaves City behind fourth-placed Tottenham on goal difference although with a game in hand and Mancini seemed satisfied with a point. “It was important not to concede ground to Liverpool,” he added. “It was probably a better result for us than it was for Liverpool but certainly it was better than if we had lost.”

Liverpool, who went closest through a first-half Skrtel header and welcomed striker Fernando Torres back from injury, are a point behind City having played a game more.
“I don’t think the result is good for anyone,” said Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez.
“We both wanted to win and I have to think about the positives. I said before that it would be a long race and we have to keep going to the end.”