Fortune, it seems, doesn’t always favour the brave. Stirring, at times brilliant, but ultimately defeated, City were superb as they gave everything against Liverpool in a bid to turnaround a three-goal deficit. Forget the scoreline on the night, the Blues were superior for the majority of this second leg, but the woodwork and some questionable decisions over the two legs made a difficult task eventually insurmountable. In the end, only tiring legs undid all City’s hard work in this game as interest in the Champions League ended for this season.
What happened? City couldn’t have started any better. The so-called dream scenario was that the Blues got an early goal to breathe new life into the tie and rattle Liverpool and with less than two minutes played, the ball was in the back of the Liverpool net. Raheem Sterling forced Virgil van Dijk into a hurried clearance that fell to Fernandinho – the Brazilian threaded a pass to Sterling who had darted in behind van Dijk and his side pass was turned in by Gabriel Jesus to send the home support wild. The Blues, wounded from successive defeats to Liverpool and United, had come roaring out of the blocks – and with a formation of three across the back, four in the middle and three up front – were determined to give it a real go if nothing else. So dominant were City in the opening 30 minutes that Ederson had no saves to make, though his altercation with Sadio Mane after a clash with Nicolas Otamendi stirred memories of the clash back in September that saw the Senegalese forward red carded. Time and time again, City pressed to great effect and Liverpool, who rarely got out of their own half, were forced into some desperate defending. The final five minutes of the half saw the Merseysiders clinging on for dear life and when Bernardo Silva’s thunderous 20-yard shot cannoned back off the inside of the post, it denied City a richly deserved second goal Moments later Leroy Sane saw a goal controversially ruled out for offside, though the ball through had seemed to have come off James Milner rather than a City foot. The visitors’ relief was clear when the whistle went to end the first period with the Blues’ players furious at the decision to rule out Sane’s goal and during the protestations, it appeared Pep Guardiola was sent to the stands. It had been magnificent stuff with every player in sky blue contributing and playing out of their skin. The frenetic yet controlled pace continued after the break as City looked for the second goal that would put them in touching distance of Jurgen Klopp’s side. But as the Blues chased the game, so one or two gaps began to appear and despite being outplayed for the best part of an hour, when a half chance presented itself as Sadio Mane burst into the box, Mohamed Salah was on hand to bundle the ball home. Whether it was scarcely deserved or not, it was in many ways the death knell of this season’s Champions League adventure. As the deflated Blues continued to give it their all, Liverpool broke to score what proved to be the winning goal through Roberto Firmino. It just wasn’t to be, but the players couldn’t have given any more on the night.
Key moment: Bernardo’s shot hitting the inside of the post and not going in just before the break was cruel with the proverbial coat of paint saving the visitors from a second-half onslaught. If TV replays prove Sane’s goal should have stood, it would mean the Blues had been on the end of three incorrect decisions – one resulting in a Liverpool goal and two chalked off for City – over the two games.
What it means...: City are out of the Champions League for this season – but we’ll be back…
What’s next? It’s back to Premier League action on Saturday when the Blues travel to Wembley to take on Tottenham Hotspur. The Blues need five points to seal the title.
MATCH DETAILS: Manchester City (1): Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte; Fernandinho, De Bruyne, David Silva (Agüero, m.65), Sané, Bernardo Silva (Gündogan, m.74); Sterling y Gabriel Jesús.
Liverpool (2): Karius; Alexander-Arnold (Clyne, m.81), Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Milner, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Mané, Salah (Ings, m.89) y Firmino (Klavan, m.81).