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12 Apr 2011

Manager Roberto Mancini took the blame for Manchester City's crushing 3-0 Premier League defeat at Liverpool.

An Andy Carroll double blew City away to leave them clinging to the Champions League fourth spot, three points above Tottenham, who have a game in hand.

"We didn't play for the first 20 minutes when Liverpool played well but tonight I made a mistake. It was my fault. We can do better," Mancini said.

He made three changes to the City team that beat Sunderland 5-0 last week.

It was far from perfect preparation for Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against arch-rivals Manchester United at Wembley.

And a thoroughly miserable night for City was compounded by a hamstring injury to striker Carlos Tevez, which means the influential Argentine is set to miss the match against United.

Without divulging further details when pressed on what his errors had been, Mancini added: "I am sorry for the fans. I am disappointed with myself. I made the mistake for this game not with the players, the players played 100%.

"I made a mistake in the last two days, I know why. It is important I understand this for the next game. It was my mistake because we did not prepare very well."

Striker Edin Dzeko, still to score in eight league matches since joining from Wolfsburg in January, replaced Mario Balotelli, who had earlier come on for Tevez, and midfielders Gareth Barry and James Milner came into the team for Nigel de Jong and David Silva.

"I made three changes, bringing in three fresh players, our focus was not good," stated Mancini. "Liverpool played fantastically in the first 20 minutes, we left a lot of space for them, and they were very aggressive at the start and we played very soft.

"After 20 minutes we started to play but it was late. For this it is my fault, it is important for me to understand this."

The Italian boss had already seen his keeper Joe Hart push Luis Suarez's strike on to the woodwork before his side conceded three times in the first half, including two goals by Carroll and a well-taken strike from Dirk Kuyt.

Carroll's thunderous 25-yard strike on 13 minutes was his first Reds goal since his £35m move from Newcastle, while City's only meaningful effort was a late strike from Yaya Toure which was comfortably punched away by keeper Pepe Reina.

Former City player and director Dennis Tueart believes Mancini's team selection was influenced by the looming game against United.

"I was very surprised by his team selection. I think he was thinking about Saturday and the FA Cup semi-final," Tueart told BBC Radio Four's Today programme.

"He left De Jong and David Silva on the bench. It was a surprising selection leaving Dzeko up on his own. I think that is what he [Mancini] was really referring to."

He added: "I thought until [the game at liverpool] progress was coming along very nicely - FA Cup semi-final, pushing for third place in the Premier League.

"But I have always maintained that when you buy a lot of high-cost players over a short period of time to get the team blend quickly is always a big challenge for the manager."

Liverpool's hopes, meanwhile, of making the Europa League were boosted as the victory reduced their gap to Tottenham to five points with six games remaining.

The result will have also helped Kenny Dalglish's cause in securing the manager's job on a full-time basis and the former Anfield star stated: "It's a gratifying performance. The players fully deserved the victory and they were a great credit to themselves and the football club."

Particular praise was saved for Carroll, who was a menace throughout as he also impressed the watching England boss Fabio Capello.

"It is great to see the big man get off the mark," Dalglish commented. "The first one was a fantastic strike, the second a good header.

"You can see the more Andy and Luis play together the better the understanding is and I thought Luis played outstandingly and was unfortunate not to open the scoring when he hit the post."

Dalglish remained cautious on their chances of catching Spurs to secure Europa League football next season and preferred instead to focus on their next match - a tricky visit to second-placed Arsenal.

"We'll just enjoy tonight and look forward to Arsenal. Mathematically it's possible [to make the Europa League] but Tottenham have had a great season and we'll just hope they slip up a bit."

Carroll was delighted with his double strike and said: "It's been a great day for us, getting my first goal and a great result all round."

Source: bbc.co.uk

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