Manchester City hosted Liverpool for the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie between the two English giants. The Cityzens needed an almighty effort to progress after losing 3-0 at Anfield, while the Reds were looking to keep it tight and edge out a result in order to book their spot in the semi-finals.
Jesus grabs the early opener that City needed
Manchester City headed into this game knowing that they needed a lightning quick start to give themselves a chance to progress, and unsurprisingly they shot out of the blocks to press Liverpool furiously. That was exactly what Pep Guardiola’s side got as a beautiful pass put Raheem Sterling through down the right flank. The winger looked up to find Gabriel Jesus open in the centre of the box with a simple square pass and the Brazilian, slotted home a cool finish past Loris Karius, handing his side a crucial lead early on. The home side continued their dominance following the goal, controlling the possession and the tempo of the game.
Despite the electric start and City’s utter dominance, Guardiola’s men struggled to force many further openings in behind the Liverpool back line during the opening 20 minutes. The Reds were pinned back almost into their own box for long spells and both Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane looked lively during the Cityzens’ frequent attacks. Despite the lack of real clear-cut chances it seemed only a matter of time before the home side produced another moment of magic, and the visitors did well to hold out in the face of such an onslaught.
City’s utter dominance comes up fruitless before the break
The dizzying movement in midfield of both David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne was perhaps the most frustrating aspect of City’s game for Liverpool to deal with in the first half. The Belgian popped up in all sorts of positions across the midfield and was no picked up when he drifted wide, allowing him to pick passes into the box at will. It was De Bruyne who had the next sight of goal near the half hour mark after some neat build-up play. The midfielder was picked out on the edge of the box but his shot was tame and Karius was more than equal to it. It did send a warning sign to the Liverpool defenders however, as if they needed one, and buoyed the City players.
There was little respite for Liverpool as the clock ticked down towards the break as Manchester City continued to play one of the most dominant halves of football that I can remember. With so much at stake for both sides it became a feisty encounter and the bookings began to mount up, especially as the home side broke forward with frightening speed. Bernardo Silva was the next City player to go close, cutting onto his left foot and bending a shot onto the post. Guardiola’s side seemed to be getting closer and closer and Sane actually had the ball in the back of the net after a Karius mistake, but the young German was incorrectly denied by the linesman’s flag. In the end it was a minor miracle for Jurgen Klopp’s men that they only went into the break 1-0 down.
Salah secures Liverpool’s away goal
Manchester City came out for the second period playing at the same frantic tempo as they had in the first, and their dominance continued despite Pep Guardiola having been sent to the stands for arguing with the referee at half time. Leroy Sane continued to run rings around Trent Alexander-Arnold and he looked the brightest City player in the early minutes of the second half, utilising his pace whenever possible. Liverpool again struggled to get any sort of foothold in the game and the possession was focused almost entirely in the visitors’ half.
It was to Manchester City’s peril to underestimate the threat that Liverpool posed on the break however and who else but Mohamed Salah handed the Reds a vital away goal. A bursting run into the box from Sadio Mane caused mayhem amongst the City defenders, who failed to make a proper clearance. Salah was there to pounce on the loose ball and the Egyptian lifted a cool dink over the sliding Nicolas Otamendi and into the back of the net. It was a stunningly confident finish from a man in fine form, and arguably his most important goal of the season.
Liverpool close out the historic win
The Liverpool goal meant that City needed to score four to progress, so it was little surprise that they began to throw everyone forward and press furiously for goals. It became a rear-guard action from the visitors, who, to their credit, coped well with the pressure, soaking much of it up and trying to break forward when possible. Despite innumerable passes around the edge of the box and dangerous crosses, Manchester City could not find a way through the brick wall that was the Liverpool defence.
In the end the Reds were able to capitalise on their gargantuan effort at the back by grabbing yet another goal. A horrendous mistake by Otamendi at the back let Roberto Firmino nip in a curl a shot round Ederson and into the far corner. It was the goal that sealed the deal for Liverpool and put the final nail in Guardiola’s side’s coffin. There was to be no late surge from Manchester City to rescue some pride and avoid another defeat, and it was Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool who ran out as winners, progressing to the Champions League semi-finals.
Despite racing to an early lead, Manchester City were unable to capitalise on their utter dominance in the first half. They were unlucky to have a goal disallowed before half time but they eventually fell once again to Liverpool. It is a disappointing end to the European campaign for Guardiola’s side, who have been so impressive this season, but they will now turn their attentions towards wrapping up the Premier League title.
For Liverpool this was another textbook performance, scoring goals on the break and withstanding the onslaught of Manchester City’s attacks. Salah struck once again, as he has done 39 times this season, and now it remains to be seen whether the Reds can make it all the way to the final. On the form they have shown recently it seems as if anything is possible for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Fernandinho, B. Silva (Gundogan, 74’), D. Silva (Aguero, 66’), De Bruyne, Sterling, Jesus, Sane
Liverpool: Karius, Alexander-Arnold (Klavan, 81’), Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wijnaldum, Milner, Salah (Ings, 89’), Firmino (Clyne, 81’), Mane
Goals: Jesus (1-0, 2’), Salah (1-1, 56’), Firmino (1-2, 77’)
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz
Yellow Cards: Mane (14’), Ederson (14’), Alexander-Arnold (29’), B. Silva (30’), Firmino (34’), Van Dijk (65’)
Red Cards: None
Manchester City: Ederson 6, Walker 6, Otamendi 6, Laporte 6, Fernandinho 8, B. Silva 7 (Gundogan n/a), D. Silva 7 (Aguero n/a), De Bruyne 7, Sterling 7, Jesus 7, Sane 7.5
Liverpool: Karius 7, Alexander-Arnold 7 (Klavan n/a), Lovren 7, Van Dijk 7, Robertson 7.5, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7, Wijnaldum 7, Milner 8, Salah 8.5 (Ings n/a), Firmino 8.5 (Clyne n/a), Mane 7
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