STEVEN Gerrard was involved in a post-match row with Roberto Mancini after hitting out at the Manchester City manager’s inference that Glen Johnson deserved a red card for a two-footed challenge on Joleon Lescott during Liverpool’s victory.
Referee Lee Mason failed to book Johnson for the challenge, leaving Mancini incensed in the wake of City captain Vincent Kompany being suspended for four games after being sent off for a similar challenge on Nani during Sunday’s FA Cup defeat against Manchester United.
Gerrard’s first-half penalty, awarded after a clumsy challenge by Stefan Savic on Daniel Agger, secured a 1-0 first-leg semi-final victory ahead of the second-leg at Anfield on Jan 25. But Liverpool's success was overshadowed by Gerrard confronting Mancini following the Italian’s televised post-match interview.
“The Johnson tackle, it was worse than the one Vinny did against United,” Mancini said.
“Gerrard came to me and said, 'You said this’, but that’s not important. It was worse. Everyone could see that. I say what I think and it is not important what Steven Gerrard or other players say.”
Gerrard’s frustration with Mancini was clear, however, when asked about the City manager’s comments.
Following Liverpool’s 3-0 Premier League defeat at the Etihad Stadium last week, Mancini apologised for waving an imaginary red card in an attempt to have defender Martin Skrtel sent off for conceding a penalty with a foul on Yaya Touré.
But with Mancini condemning Wayne Rooney at the weekend for his role in Kompany’s dismissal, Gerrard hit back at the former Inter Milan coach. “I’m surprised at Mancini,” Gerrard said.
“He had a go at Wayne Rooney trying to get one of his players sent off at the weekend, and now he is trying to get one of our players into trouble – I don’t think that’s right.”
Liverpool’s victory consigned City to their fourth defeat in eight games and second successive home defeat. And Mancini admits that, with a 1-0 advantage, Kenny Dalglish’s team are favourites to book their first visit to Wembley since the 1996 FA Cup final.
“The second leg is going to be difficult,” Mancini said. “Liverpool are favourites because they won 1-0 away. We have played two difficult games. I knew that was going to happen.
“January is going to be an important month but I think in both games we didn’t deserve to lose. It is difficult because we were without three or four players. The result is not right. For me it was a draw.”
Dalglish, who confirmed that Jay Spearing would have a test on a hamstring injury on Thursday, said that his team still had work to do in the second leg.
He said: “It’s a fantastic performance against a really good side, but we’re not presuming that the job is done. It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but it didn’t fall short in terms of desire or commitment.
“We might have a slight advantage with the goal, but there will be nobody jumping through hoops at our place. We’ll just be as professional as we can at our place.”
After a period of unhappy relations with the wider footballing world, it has been a terrific few days for Liverpool FC. First, they win easily in the FA Cup. Next, they win away at the home of the Premier League leaders in the Carling Cup, putting themselves within touching distance of a Wembley final for the first time in 16 years.