Liverpool’s victory over Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final ensured that a fourth successive year of title mercantilism will once again be denied to Pep Guardiola and his Abu Dhabi backers.
Liverpool have struck a blow over Manchester City after the FA Cup semi final. The match saw Liverpool win 3-0, with goals from Mohamed Salah and two own goals. Read more in detail here: manchester city vs liverpool.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp instructed his players to be “as obnoxious as possible” as they pursued Manchester City for the trophy that would give them a historic quadruple.
Liverpool’s comments came as the Reds attempted to play on City’s nerves in a Premier League championship battle that seemed to be turning into a procession for Pep Guardiola’s defending champions at one stage.
With a 3-2 triumph in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, Liverpool have lived up to their manager’s promise and have been able to get under City’s skin, while also earning a boost in their pursuit of history.
If this heavyweight sports rivalry has progressed to the point where practically every occurrence is forensically studied to see who has the psychological edge, this was unquestionably a blow to Liverpool.
It wasn’t a definite decision. City are too excellent, still leading the league and facing Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals, but it’s a strike nevertheless.
City will not be deterred by a single defeat, and Guardiola’s squad selection suggested that the FA Cup was not high on Guardiola’s priority list, but Liverpool will take heart and use it to reinforce their own efforts.
The Reds’ confidence will be bolstered by victory.
With the Carabao Cup won and a Champions League semi-final against Villarreal on the horizon, Liverpool’s dominance in the opening 45 minutes must encourage hope that City’s one-point advantage in the league can be overturned, while the history books await.
Klopp may attempt (or may not try) to keep the enthusiasm and expectation in check, but there is no avoiding reality, and there must certainly be a sense within Liverpool’s camp that the seemingly impossible is just that.
To add to the excitement, City will be Liverpool’s most fearsome opponent, with their own championship hopes and the elusive first Champions League victory looming in the distance. These are the two best teams in Europe.
If the thrilling 2-2 draw at Etihad Stadium six days before this Wembley match set the tone for the season’s finale – where a Champions League final clash remains a distinct possibility – then Liverpool’s semi-final victory may be considered first blood.
If the last draw was a game of razor-thin margins in which two world-class teams could not be separated, Liverpool dominated City in the opening 45 minutes and virtually won the game, despite Pep Guardiola’s side improving significantly after the break.
Liverpool’s physical strength and acuity were too much for a transformed city to handle. How it showed when Ibrahima Konate pushed off all tackles to score the first goal, while Sadio Mane pounced on an Ederson-like blunder from Guardiola’s FA Cup goalie Zack Steffen to seal their dominance.
Mane’s third goal for Liverpool before half-time gave Liverpool a significant edge, despite some late nerves after City goals from Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva at each end of the second half.
Klopp’s characteristic fist pump echoed his joy as Liverpool reached their first FA Cup final in a decade.
Liverpool are in a fantastic situation, with almost everyone healthy, and they showed their offensive versatility late on by replacing Mane and Luis Diaz with Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota.
They will believe they have the momentum and threat to win all four titles they are vying for – and if this loss can impair City’s forward momentum and confidence, then the better for the Reds.
What about the city?
Guardiola’s team-sheet was undoubtedly appreciated in Liverpool’s locker room before to kick-off. After getting injured in the Champions League quarter-final match against Atletico Madrid, Kevin de Bruyne was only fit for the bench and was never tried.
Kyle Walker was another victim of Spain’s high-priced advancement, while vital central defenders Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias were also limited to warm-ups. Fernandinho, who will leave the club at the end of the season, was thrown into a thankless midfield role.
Riyad Mahrez came in as a late substitution, but the most important decision was Guardiola’s decision to stick with Steffen as his goalkeeper for this tournament, choosing him over Ederson and paying the price for the Brazilian’s bad performance.
Any loss, particularly against Liverpool, hurts perfectionists and champions like Guardiola, but City will not regard it as having a significant influence on their title and Champions League chances.
Guardiola was chosen after a grueling Champions League examination. They will point out that with a large first-leg advantage, Klopp had the option of resting numerous players against the less physically frightening and dangerous Benfica.
Guardiola will believe his decision was taken with the greater vision and bigger trophies in mind, even if it does not bring solace in loss.
Liverpool won this one and will have the psychological advantage for at least a few days.
The focus now goes to the Premier League and Champions League, with those razor-thin margins once again.
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