Having lost 3-0 to West Brom in their opening fixture, this was undoubtedly the performance Brendan Rodgers required from his Liverpool side and their superior passing and quality was rewarded as they twice took the lead through a Martin Skrtel header and a wonderful free kick from Luis Suarez.
However, a combination of a flapping Pepe Reina and a muddled Martin Kelly allowed Yaya Toure to equalise initially on 63 minutes, before Skrtel was guilty of a truly dreadful mistake as his awful back-pass allowed Carlos Tevez to round Reina and score with 10 minutes remaining.
Dominating a match against the reigning champions was clear progress for a side that prior to today had picked up just 18 points in 20 Premier League games in 2012, but it could and should have been an even more auspicious occasion for Rodgers in what was his first home league game as Liverpool manager.
Having carefully restored the old This Is Anfield sign and reintroduced red nets to the famous stadium, Rodgers has been at pains to put across the message that he is giving this grand old club a new lick of paint. That extended to the playing staff too with the average age of Liverpool's team dropping to 24 years and 364 days - the youngest starting XI for the club since 2003.
That was in large part due to the fact that Liverpool gave a Premier League debut to 17-year-old Raheem Sterling and the forward, playing down the left, made an eye-catching contribution in the early stages. After 18 minutes, Sterling cut onto his right and delivered a wickedly dipping cross to find Fabio Borini charging towards the near post. However, having beaten Aleksandar Kolarov to the ball, the Italian striker turned his shot wide.
By this point Liverpool had already suffered the loss of Lucas Leiva - who spent so much of last season sidelined with a knee injury - to a muscular problem that forced his withdrawal after only five minutes, but the setback appeared to do little to disrupt their approach as they adopted a commendably high tempo and went in hunt of a goal from the off, pressing City hard.
Suarez was sparky enough, though the Uruguayan was a touch wasteful in the final third again, and alongside the immaculate Joe Allen, who failed to misplace a single pass in the entire first half, captain Steven Gerrard was influential too, threatening twice with early chances that he dragged wide of the post.
City by contrast seemed unbalanced with both Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli in attack and David Silva relegated to the bench, though they almost took the lead after 20 minutes when Tevez darted onto a through-ball from Samir Nasri, rounded Jose Reina and saw his shot from a tight angle bounce along the goal line and strike the far post.
But with the reigning champions only a intermittent threat, Liverpool secured the goal their efforts merited after 34 minutes. A dangerous cross from Gerrard forced a corner, and nearly an own goal, from Kompany, before the Liverpool captain delivered the set-piece from the right himself. Skrtel thundered into the box and leapt in front of Kolarov and Pablo Zabaleta to hammer his header past Joe Hart for a half-time lead.
With Allen producing a faultless display of passing, this was the kind of performance the appointment of Rodgers from Swansea had promised, even if this new style remains firmly in its infancy on Merseyside.
Liverpool should have extended their advantage after 50 minutes when Yaya Toure gave possession away with a sloppy cross-field pass. Borini took possession and slipped a pass inside to Suarez as his team-mate arrived on the edge of the box. Suarez also opted for finesse but failed to get the correct contact on the ball to beat Hart.
City looked strangely listless, a concern in the context of a rather unconvincing 3-2 win at home to Southampton in their opening game of the season, and it required a tactical switch from Mancini to re-establish themselves as a force in the game as he brought on Jack Rodwell for Samir Nasri and pushed Yaya Toure up the pitch. It is a ploy he has used regularly before, and brought immediate rewards.
On 63 minutes, Tevez muscled his way past Sterling on the City right and flung in a rather hopeful cross. However, Reina came and flapped at the ball in the air, meaning Martin Kelly was unprepared to deal with it when he came his way. The defender's attempted clearance was still rather slapstick though and the ball fell to Yaya Toure, who slotted it home from close range.
But it was an undeserved equaliser for a City side uncomfortable in a 3-5-2 formation and horribly sloppy in possession, and Liverpool deservedly stole the lead back inside three minutes. Rodwell fouled Gerrard 25 yards from goal and Suarez dispatched a perfectly judged free kick that curled around the outside of the wall and snuck inside the near post.
Liverpool enjoyed their renewed ascendancy and should have been afforded the chance to take a two-goal lead on 73 minutes when Kolarov brought down Glen Johnson with a clumsy challenge from behind, only to be mystifyingly let off the hook. Liverpool were bemused, and they were made to pay.
Having just cleared superbly from the centre of his own box, Skrtel ruined a fantastic performance with a horrendous lapse of judgement on 80 minutes. After checking back on the left wing, he tried to play a back pass to Reina but instead rolled the ball into the path of Tevez, who did very well to hold his composure, round Reina and tap the ball home.
Liverpool threw on Andy Carroll in an attempted to secure the win they deserved and the striker did come close when seeing a late header cleared off the line by Rodwell. Shelvey went close too with a lovely shot from range but Rodgers was to be denied a win that would have firmly shaken off the blues of an opening defeat at West Brom.
- Carlos Tevez
- Yaya Toure
- Brendan Rodgers