Mohammed Salah, Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain and Sadio Mané all scored as Liverpool took control of their Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City.
The Reds ran out 3-0 winners in the first leg at Anfield, leaving Pep Guardiola’s team shell-shocked and needing to regroup before this weekend’s crucial derby against Man Utd, when they could clinch the Premier League title.
Liverpool made their home advantage count, scoring all three of their goals before the half-time break. City took control of the game in the second half but failed to register an away goal despite their attacking intent.
Jürgen Klopp’s side lost intensity after the interval but are now in prime position to qualify to for the semi-finals if next week’s second leg at the Etihad Stadium goes their way.
Security concerns cast a shadow over this eagerly-anticipated clash when City’s team coach had bottles and other objects thrown at it en route to Anfield.
Guardiola said after the game: “We come here to play football, and I don’t understand this situation. The bus is destroyed, and I didn’t expect this from a club which is prestigious like Liverpool. Of course, it is not Liverpool it’s the [fans]. But hopefully, this doesn’t happen again.”
Having endured a torrid journey to the stadium, City’s evening got even worse as the match officials failed to spot Mohammed Salah was marginally offside in the build-up to Liverpool’s first goal in the 12th minute.
But even the most die-hard Blue must accept that Liverpool were hungrier, more determined and fully deserved their victory on one of the great nights of European football at Anfield.
Guardiola erred tactically by starting Ilkay Gündogan in midfield. Seemingly overwhelmed by the occasion, the German had a poor game and failed to step up to when needed in his role as a box-to-box player.
Liverpool’s defending was brilliant on the night, allowing the front three of Salah, Mané and Roberto Firmino to stay high up the pitch, ready to counter-attack, which was how the first goal was scored.
Leroy Sańe sloppily gave away possession deep in the Liverpool half, James Milner drilled the ball down the right, and Salah had anticipated the options when playing in Firmino who got a shot off.
City’s clueless defending saw Kyle Walker failed to clear the danger, allowing Salah to score and send the home fans wild.
Moments later, Milner was too strong for Gündogan, and the ball was released to allow Oxlade-Chamberlain in space just outside the box before he thundered an unstoppable shot past ‘keeper Ederson and into the top left corner.
Guardiola turned away and closed his eyes in disappointment and disbelief at the concession of such a goal.
City lacked character and organisation in defence, with Aymeric Laporte, an excellent centre-back, struggling out of position throughout the match.
With Andy Robertson and Mane on the left flank causing problems for Walker, Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi looked like strangers in the centre, failing to deal with Liverpool’s menace.
Firmino set the scene for the third, pressing from midfield before releasing the ball to Salah who attempted a cross that was blocked.
He calmly regained the ball before lifting it towards the far post, cutting out Kompany and finding Mané who headed accurately past Ederson who did not stand a chance.
The second period saw Liverpool defending for most of the 45 minutes, but doing so expertly and remaining organised, allowing no space for Sané or Raheem Sterling, who came on as a replacement for Gündogan, to run in behind.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was particularly impressive at right-back. Up against Sańe, the 19-year-old was composed and played a big part in preventing City from creating any clear-cut chances.
Liverpool left-back Robertson also looked sharp, intercepting crucial passes, and has established himself as a fixture in Klopp’s starting XI.
Attacking hungrily to try and cross the ball in the danger area, the £8m signing from Hull City is looking increasingly like a real bargain for such as a developed young talent.
Only the horrific pre-match scenes outside the stadium took a shine off Liverpool’s night, and Klopp apologised before kick-off, saying: “I have to say sorry for Liverpool FC.”
The tie is not over, but it is hard not to see Liverpool scoring at the Etihad, meaning City would need to score five times if they concede on the night.