Liverpool's loss at the Etihad on Boxing Day was their first since the horror show at Hull, and while it knocks them slightly off course heading into Sunday's visit to Stamford Bridge, it was another performance from which a fair few positives can be gleaned. The result was disappointing, but in nearly every other facet of the match, Brendan Rodgers' side were solid, backing up their manager's words that'd they would arrive in hopes of not just not losing, but of having an earnest go at getting all three points. And, were it not for a constellation of individual errors and some unfortunate refereeing decisions, they very well could, easily giving Manchester City their biggest challenge in front of their home supporters this season.
Raheem Sterling yet again found himself at the heart of many of the good things Liverpool produced on the day; after finding himself buried on the bench for most of the spring and fall, the young forward has had a renaissance in the last three weeks, recovering nicely from his poor performance at the KC Stadium and asserting himself as an important component of Liverpool's attack in the absence of Daniel Sturridge.
His late miss looms large for many--which he just has to convert I mean seriously Raheem I'll allow the awful Little Richard hair if you bury that and I'm not even kidding--but that unfairly colors sentiment on a day when he was dangerous down the right, linking well with Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, and Jordan Henderson in attack and again showing plenty of work on the defensive side to aid the out of form Glen Johnson. The offside decision in the first half provided another flashpoint for discussion, but his performance throughout was one worth highlighting.
For his part, it was an encouraging display, albeit one that left the side wanting more and the player well aware of what he needs to add:
Obviously coming away to Man City we were looking to get a decent result and losing today, we're not really too happy. We had chances to win the game, my chance at the end as well, so as a team we're really disappointed not to come away with something today. I looked at the replay (of the offside decision) after the game and I could see I'm clearly two yards onside, and that was a big chance in the game for us to go one-nil up. We took the lead anyway, but that would have given us another goal advantage.
It's one of the top teams in the Premier League, and to come away and give such a good performance, from the whole team, just shows that we can really go on and do good stuff this year. With me it's just about confidence, and coming into the team at such a crucial point, I feel like I've got to step up to the plate, and hopefully provide a few more goals.
There were plenty of worries about him coming into the season, mostly born out of his fading form as last winter unfolded, as well as his off-pitch conduct. His form over the past few weeks appears to indicate that concerns about any longer-term impact regarding the former have been assuaged, and if the latter's been addressed as well, his future once again looks promising. With better management of his minutes and exposure, hopefully Liverpool hold up their end of the bargain as well, and that the last few weeks become the rule rather than the exception for Raheem Sterling.