Liverpool’s brilliant attack saw them into the semifinals with a 2-1 win at the Eithad securing a 5-1 aggregate win. Here are three things we learned.
The emphasis was very much on Manchester City heading into the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal with Liverpool. After getting off to the perfect start with a goal within two minutes, it seemed the Citizens were going to live up to the billing, but after a first half of pressure, City were punished by Liverpool’s fantastic attacking talent in the second half and were dumped out with a 2-1 defeat. Here are three things we learned.
Liverpool attack sees them through
Mohamad Salah will no doubt steal the headlines tonight with his 39th goal of the season, but all three of Liverpool’s attacking trident made a telling difference.
In the first half, Sadio Mane and Salah provided Liverpool with a much needed defensive outlet despite being under intense pressure from City’s backline. Although this possession only resulted in one counter-attack toward the end of the first half, Liverpool’s forwards held the ball up and won a number of fouls to slow play down.
In the second half, when Liverpool started playing their game again, the attacking trident flourished. Salah now has 50 combined goals and assists in all competitions (39 goals and 11 assists) with 10 of those of goals coming in the Champions League (eight goals and two assists). His partners in crimes have been just as impressive. Firmino also has eight goals in the competition, while Mane has seven.
No one is going to want to face this attack in the semifinals.
City didn’t take their chances
City started this game like a house on fire. Their pressing, much like Liverpool’s in the first leg, was intense and suffocating and they were rewarded with an early goal from a Liverpool mistake. They continued to dominate the opening 45 minutes, maintaining the manic intensity they started the game with. However, City’s two best chances of grabbing a second came from Bernardo Sliva, who hit the post from range and Leroy Sane, who bundled home an offside effort just before halftime.
The Citizens got into some great positions in that first half, but were lacking the finishing touch that was missing from their game during the second half of the first leg
Although he came on in the second half, one has to wonder if this game would have been any different if Sergio Aguero had started this game. The Argentine was out injured for the first leg, but played 15 minutes of the Manchester derby and was rumored to be fit enough to start the second leg.
Even if Aguero wasn’t fit enough to start, he was only afforded 20 minutes in the second half, 10 minutes after Salah had scored the equalizer. Chasing goals at halftime and clearly lacking a clinical edge, its’s perplexing that Pep Guardiola didn’t give City’s all-time top scorer more game time.
Liverpool were very lucky
Due Gabriel Jesus’ goal within the first two minutes, we can’t be sure that Jurgen Klopp asked his team to sit back and defend like they did in response to the City pressure. However, after now seeing them defend for around 90 minutes of this tie, stretching back to the halftime whistle, it’s unlikely Klopp will ask his side to sit back and defend an aggregate lead again.
Much has been made of the defensive side of Klopp’s Liverpool and in fairness to the German, since he got his longtime target of Virgil van Dijk, they’ve been much more solid at the back
The Reds were very lucky in the first half at the Eithad to only have been 1-0 down, with both Loris Karius and his back line looking extremely uncomfortable under the probing from City’s forwards. In contrast, the second half was a much more comfortable affair as Liverpool played a more progressive style and were rewarded with the all-important away goal within the first 10 minutes of the half.
The two goals in the second half demonstrate Liverpool’s clear strengths are in playing fast attacking soccer, even if they have an aggregate lead.