Liverpool took a firm grip on their Champions League quarter-final as Manchester City were torn apart by a three-goal burst from Jurgen Klopp’s side in the first 31 minutes at Anfield.
City’s only Premier League defeat as they move to the brink of the title has been a 4-3 loss at Anfield in January – and they were made to suffer once more in the face of Liverpool’s pressing, aggression and potent attack.
Mohamed Salah pounced in the area to score his 38th goal of the season after 12 minutes and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doubled their lead eight minutes later when he unleashed a fierce shot past Ederson from 20 yards.
And the third goal that gives Liverpool such a commanding advantage to take to Etihad Stadium next Tuesday came just after the half-hour when Sadio Mane rose to head home Salah’s cross.
Liverpool, potentially crucially, emerged from the second half without conceding an away goal, although an injury that forced Salah off will be a concern.
Anfield was at its most hostile – but there were unsavoury incidents before kick-off when fans outside the ground attacked and damaged the Manchester City team coach on its way into the stadium, prompting an “unreserved” apology from Liverpool and an investigation from Merseyside Police.
Klopp outflanks Guardiola again
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had the better of his head-to-head meetings with Pep Guardiola before this game with six wins from 12 games – and he outmanoeuvred his illustrious counterpart once more here.
Klopp took this game, if not the entire tie, out of Guardiola’s reach by sticking strictly to his instincts and the fiercely intense pressing style that so unsettled City in their only league defeat of the season.
Liverpool, in Klopp’s trademark style, never took a backward step and have uncovered an approach that rattles City in a manner that has escaped pretty much all of Guardiola’s opponents in this stellar season for his side.
They never allowed City to relax into their passing style, with the likes of David Silva in particular simply not afforded the time and space that has seen teams picked apart in their runaway league campaign.
And Klopp also has the attacking weapons that make Liverpool a team to fear in the shape of the potent triumvirate of Salah, Mane and the underrated Brazilian Roberto Firmino, a trio good enough to expose City’s defensive flaws.
It was Firmino who picked City apart for the opening goal for Salah, while the Egyptian turned provider for Mane’s header to put Liverpool three up before half-time.