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Monday, November 28, 2011

Hart saves City from first defeat

Ten-man Manchester City survived a serious examination of their title credentials at Liverpool to extend their unbeaten Barclays Premier League record to 13 matches after a 1-1 draw.

Had it not been for goalkeeper Joe Hart, the visitors may have tasted a league defeat for the first time since May 7.

They barely had time to celebrate Vincent Kompany's 31st-minute opener before Charlie Adam's shot was deflected in by Joleon Lescott.

In the second half, substitute Mario Balotelli lasted 18 minutes before being sent off for a second bookable offence and had England international Hart not been on top form City would have succumbed to sustained Liverpool pressure late on.

Credit must go to Liverpool who enhanced their own reputation as genuine top-four contenders with a second-half performance which produced everything but a winner. Ironically, considering the silky attacking skills at their disposal, the visitors took a 31st-minute lead from an old-fashioned corner routine.

David Silva swung in a left-footed cross and centre-back Kompany glanced a header into the far corner after marker Dirk Kuyt and Glen Johnson got in each other's way.

But within two minutes City found themselves pegged back. Kompany's weak clearance dropped to Kuyt, who squared for Adam to unleash a left-footed drive which was heading wide until Lescott tried to clear and succeeded only in diverting the ball past Hart.

The increasingly manic atmosphere hardly needed enhancing, but the arrival of Balotelli for Samir Nasri did exactly that.

Having been booked for pulling back Johnson, Balotelli was shown a second yellow card for catching Martin Skrtel across the face.

Hart kept his side in it with another good save at his near post from Luis Suarez and pulled off another brilliant one-handed effort from Andy Carroll's header in added time.

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