LIVERPOOL Reserves crashed to their fourth consecutive defeat after suffering a 2-1 loss to Manchester City this evening.

The Halliwell Jones Stadium was a fortress for the Reds last year – the Barclays Premier Reserve League North champions losing just one game in Warrington.

But a wonderful goal from Moroccan winger Nabil El Zhar was not enough to salvage a point for Gary Ablett’s side, as 1,053 fans saw an experienced Manchester City team punish Liverpool for two first-half defensive errors.

Former England internationals Darius Vassell and Michael Ball led a City side that also boasted Zimbabwean striker Benjani.

Midfield stalwart Damien Plessis did his best to keep the Blues at bay in the opening period of the game with some typically robust challenges, but it was the visitors who opened the scoring after eight minutes.

Paraguayan centre-back Ronald Huth failed to clear a cross from Donal McDermott and Paul Marshall struck the ball low and hard past Liverpool’s goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.

Daniel Pacheco and Nabil El Zhar were at the heart of most of Liverpool’s attacking play and City keeper Tobias Johansen had to be quick to prevent El Zhar capitalising on a pass threaded through by the Spaniard on 19 minutes.

However, it was the formidable presence of 19-year-old Clayton McDonald that curtailed most of the diminutive duo’s effectiveness - City’s colossal centre-half standing 6ft 6ins tall with the build of a heavyweight boxer.

A dull game burst into life on the stroke of half-time as El Zhar displayed the fancy footwork which has already seen him shine in several appearances for Rafael Benitez’s first team this season.

A tantalising run that mesmerised the City defence ended when the winger unleashed a shot from 20 yards that flew across Johansen’s goal and nestled beyond his reach in the bottom left hand corner on 43 minutes .

Unfortunately for Liverpool they were level for little more than a minute - City regaining the lead after another defensive mistake.

McDermott found Benjani beyond the Red’s backline with a sharp pass and Huth initially appeared to have averted the danger with a sliding tackle.

Yet Peter Gulacsi was unable to hold onto the loose ball and the former Portsmouth striker – this time last year the Premier League’s top scorer – easily converted the rebound.

Fans hoping for another five-goal thriller following Everton’s 3-2 victory last month were to be disappointed as City’s veteran trio of Ball, Vassell and Benjani were replaced by James Poole, Sam Williamson and Ian Daly respectively at the interval.

The game petered out in the second half and while Hungarian stopper Gulacsi was called upon to make an excellent save after a speculative strike from Shaleum Logan, James Poole blazed a clear chance over the bar on 65 minutes when he looked certain to extend City’s lead from just six yards.

Jordy Brouwer missed Liverpool’s best chance of the game on 68 minutes, avoiding the offside trap with a well-timed run but ultimately firing wide when faced with the onrushing Johansen.

Liverpool tried to change the game with the introduction of Mikel San Jose, Vincent Weijl and Hungarian frontman Andras Simon late on.

But it was City who missed the best chances and while Gulacsi spared the Reds more blushes with an outstanding save from Poole in the dying moments, Gary Ablett’s men have now accumulated just three points from a possible 15.

Liverpool Reserves: Peter Gulacsi, Stephen Darby, Emiliano Insua, Daniel Ayala (Mikel San Jose 70), Ronald Huth, Damien Plessis, Nabil El Zhar, Jay Spearing (Vincent Weijl 70), Jordy Brouwer, Daniel Pacheco (Andras Simon 80), Gerardo Bruna. Unused Subs: Dean Bouzanis, Steven Irwin.

Booked: Daniel Pacheco

Man City Reserves: Tobias Johansen, Shaleum Logan, Michael Ball (James Poole 46), Ben Mee, Clayton McDonald, Adam Clayton, Vladimir Weiss, Paul Marshall, Darius Vassell (Sam Williamson 46), Benjani (Ian Daly 46), Donal McDermott. Unused subs: Greg Hartley, Scott Kay.

Booked: Adam Clayton

Warrington Guardian Man of the Match: Nabil El Zhar. His stunning effort and quick feet were the highlights of a game short on quality.