Liverpool 3 Manchester City 0
Pep Guardiola says his Manchester City players must still “believe” they can qualify for the semi-final of the Champions League despite their 3-0 defeat at Anfield.
In what was surely the most stunning 30 minutes in English football this season, Liverpool ran riot in front of their ecstatic home fans, scoring three times to take an iron grip on the two-leg tie.
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That they didn’t concede after the break, when the inevitable backlash came from their visitors, was also impressive, and City now face a monumental task to turn around the tie in next Tuesday’s return leg at the Etihad.
“I don’t have too many complaints,” said Guardiola. “We have to accept it and now we have [Manchester] United at home and then Liverpool at home. We see what happens. Of course it is difficult but we believe.”
The one complaint the City manager did have concerned what unfolded before the match when their coach was attacked outside Anfield by an hostile crowd. No City player or member of staff was injured in the assault, but two policemen on duty outside the ground were hurt and the vehicle was damaged.
Liverpool apologised and called the behaviour “completely unacceptable”, but Guardiola was at a loss to understand how such an incident could have happened in the first place.
Perhaps the ugly scenes affected the City players or perhaps they were simply caught off-guard by the pace and ferocity of Liverpool in the first half an hour.
They were 1-0 down on 12 minutes when the Reds launched a blistering counter-attack and sloppy defence, notably by Kyle Walker, allowed Mohamed Salah to stroke the ball home from close range.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doubled Liverpool’s advantage on 20 minutes, unleashing a thunderbolt from outside the City area that beat Ederson all ends up. When Sadio Mane made it 3-0 on 31 minutes, rising to head home Salah’s sweet cross, the Kop couldn’t believe their eyes at was had unfolded in their first Champions League quarter-final for nine years.
“City were brought to their knees amid the cauldron on an unforgettable night,” commented the Liverpool Echo, which then gloated: “City owner Sheikh Mansour can afford most things but he can’t buy passion like this.”
The Echo might want to rein in its ebullience between now and next Tuesday. City and their fans will no doubt extend their own warm welcome to Liverpool in the second leg and they will take heart from what Barcelona did to Paris Saint-Germain last season, overturning a 4-0 first leg deficit to win 6-1 at the Camp Nou in their last 16 clash.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was delighted with the result but at the same time determined not to get ahead of himself. “We beat the best team in the world so that is a really good performance,” said Klopp. “But I am not interested in being good. In this competition, it is about going to the next round, and we are not in the next round. Let’s talk about it after the next game.”
To emphasise his point, Klopp drew on his managerial experience in Germany. He said: “Years ago [2013-14], I played with Dortmund at Real Madrid and we lost 3-0. Afterwards, everybody told me it was done. I was really angry about it when they said it.
“At home, we won 2-0 with six or seven changes in the team - and everyone who saw the game knows we should have won 5-0, 100%, without a shadow of a doubt. I know these things can happen… [so] we will really have to work again like hell.”
Barcelona also in firm control
In the night’s other quarter-final, Barcelona beat Roma 4-1 thanks to two own goals from the Italians.
Daniele de Rossi and Kostas Manolas were the guilty men, and there were also goals for the hosts from Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez, the former Liverpool striker scoring in the competition for the first time in more than a year.
Edin Dzeko scored for Roma ten minutes from time to give them a glimmer of hope in the return leg next week, but the Spaniards are well on course to reach their first Champions League final since 2015.
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