MANCHESTER // There was a cry for help and a cry for goals from Roberto Mancini last night as he told how fervently he hoped Carlos Tevez would return quickly to help prevent Manchester City's campaign from ending in disappointment. In the absence of the 19-goal Argentine, City have now gone three games without a win, and they lacked an abrasive edge up front in the goalless draw with Liverpool. Tevez flew to his homeland after worries following the birth of his daughter, Katie. The family situation has improved, but he is not expected to return in time for Wednesday's FA Cup replay at Stoke.
As he awaits news, Mancini desperately hopes Tevez will be available for Saturday's trip to Chelsea. "It's a big problem for us," said the manager. "We have an important week and we don't have Tevez. "For me, this is no good. We don't have the depth. I hope he can come back because we need him. We tried to win this game, but in the end it was important not to lose. I thought we played very well. We played as a team."
So did Liverpool as six bookings testified to their fighting spirit. They remain a point behind City, but with influential figures like Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun back after injury, Rafa Benitez's side are looking ominously strong in the battle for fourth place. "I don't think a point was good for anyone," Benitez said. "But we have to look at the positives; we were strong and had two important players coming back.
"It's a race of four teams and you have to think of Tottenham and Aston Villa. We have to do our job. I have more confidence, but it depends on the players." With much at stake, it was inevitably a cautious affair, although abject would be another description. Steven Gerrard did his best to add some impetus to Liverpool's play. A 20-yard effort dipped over the bar before he set up Martin Skrtel for the best chance of the first half with a deep corner that the central defender steered wide.
For City, Emmanuel Adebayor was often too isolated and Stephen Ireland's display showed how much his confidence has ebbed since last season. Player of the Year in the last campaign, his intelligence and impudent touches were a feature of City's attacks. Those attributes deserted him yesterday. When Adebayor sent a pass into him in space inside the box, the Ireland of old would have turned and gone for goal. This one turned back and the chance was gone.
It took just over an hour for Pepe Reina to make a save. Gareth Barry crossed from the left, Adebayor appeared to control with his arm, but then thumped in a low shot that the Liverpool keeper pushed away at his near post. With Craig Bellamy on, City finished strongly, with Adebayor going close twice. He harassed Skrtel to push the ball ahead for a sight of goal, but as he prepared to shoot, the defender stretched a leg to divert the ball for a corner.
With 10 minutes to go, an Adam Johnson corner dropped to Vincent Kompany in the box. He chipped back in but Adebayor headed over. Two late shouts for a penalty at both ends went ignored. Daniel Agger appeared to shove Adebayor while Benayoun was caught by Kompany, but stayed on his feet to send over a cross that was cleared.Benitez admired his player's honesty, but said: "Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad. You cannot blame the player. He was trying to score or go forward."