Manchester City gave it their best, but it wasn’t enough against a white-hot Liverpool side that scored twice in the second half to overcome an early City lead and punch their ticket to the Champions League semifinals, winning the match, 2-1, and the quarterfinal tie, 5-1.
The match started out with a major advantage for Manchester City, scoring in just the second minute after Virgil Van Djik was left well out of position on a counter-attack, leaving Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling the room they needed to combine for a shockingly fast opening goal to put the pressure on Liverpool right off the bat.
City would dominate much of the first half, with nearly 70 percent of the possession and periodically peppering Liverpool’s goal with shots. They’d only manage one more shot on target in the first half and had a late goal chalked off for offside, though as they kept Liverpool from taking a single shot until after the 40th minute and hardly ever even let them into the penalty area, that wasn’t a huge issue just yet. The momentum was going their way, and the second half would give them time to work on the other two goals of their deficit.
But Liverpool slowly managed to claw their way into better and better positions as the half wore on, chipping away at Manchester’s momentum advantage until things started to almost feel more even just before half time.
That offside goal caused a fair amount of controversy — it was a very close call, and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was left so furious that Spanish referee Antonio Mateu was forced to send him to the stands at half time. Replays during halftime seemed to show that Leroy Sane was just onside, leaving City fans furious, though given the speed of the moment and the lack of VAR in the Champions League, there was nothing to be done about the moment.
The second half definitely felt much more even, with Liverpool getting more into the match and creating a number of threats going forward. Neither side managed to even get a shot off in the first 10 minutes of the half — but when Liverpool surged forward in the 56th minute, Sadio Mane went bursting through the box before getting taken down, but the ball stayed loose for Mohamed Salah to pounce on and finish, leveling the score in the match, restoring Liverpool’s three-goal aggregate lead, and most importantly giving Liverpool an away goal tiebreaker that City could not touch.
Liverpool weren’t done, though, taking the lead in the match a little over 20 minutes later when Roberto Firmino got a free one-on-one run with no help coming for City, scoring with ease to put the tie well and truly out of reach with less than 15 minutes left in the match.
It was a massive result for Liverpool, absolutely dominating the top team in England over the course of the tie. They’ll have a huge uptick in confidence and momentum now, pushing for second place in the Premier League and hoping to play just as strongly against whoever they’re drawn against in the Champions League semifinal.
Liverpool could be just a few games away from glory — which is where Manchester City wanted to be, but they fell short in a big moment yet again. Guardiola just hasn’t quite been able to put everything together on the Champions League stage since he left Barcelona. Now he’s left searching for answers once more, and his team will be left at home watching Liverpool in the Champions League instead of playing for glory themselves.
Manchester City: Ederson; Kyle Walker, Nicolas Otamendi, Aymeric Laporte; Bernardo Silva (Ilkay Gundogan 74’), Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva (Sergio Aguero 66’); Raheem Sterlin, Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane
Goal: Jesus (2’)
Liverpool: Loris Karius; Trent Alexander-Arnold (Nathaniel Clyne 81’), Dejan Lovren, Virgil Van Djik, Andy Robertson; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner; Mohamed Salah (Danny Ings 89’), Roberto Firmino (Ragnar Klavan 81’), Sadio Mane
Goals: Salah (56’), Firmino (77’)
Three things we saw
Manchester City got the perfect start
City came out putting relentless pressure on Liverpool’s defense, and one glaring mistake by Virgil Van Djik later, getting pulled all the way to the touchline by Raheem Sterling before getting tossed aside to be left out of the play, and City had scored early. That was exactly what they needed to put a white-hot Liverpool side on their heels, and they kept Liverpool mostly out of the match for much of the first half thanks to the confidence that goal gave them.
... but they struggled to follow it up
Despite getting that early momentum and despite Liverpool being extremely disorganized for a long spell after that, City had a hard time taking any advantage of the situation. Yes, they dominated the run of play, only earning one more shot on target and one shot off the post during the rest of the half. Once Liverpool firmed up and started to get their confidence back, City were largely limited to lower-percentage shots that didn’t give them the kind of chance they were hoping for, and that let Liverpool steadily grow in confidence and quality throughout the half.
Liverpool didn’t miss their chance
All season long, Liverpool have shown time and again that if you give them one chance, they will take it ruthlessly. That’s exactly what happened on Tuesday, with Liverpool being effectively out of the match for most of the first half before leveling out the run of play a bit, then scoring on their first real clear-cut chance of the game 56 minutes in.
With a front line speared by Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino, there’s very little room for error for any defense, even as good of one as City have. So when Mane got Aymeric Laporte turned around and Nicolas Otamendi came down to help — while leaving Salah now unmarked — it was little surprise that the moment ended in Salah running free to pounce on the loose ball. You just can’t give Liverpool those chances and expect to not be punished for it, a lesson that City has learned in painful fashion over the last week.