Talking Points: Man City 1, Liverpool 2 (1-5 agg.)

Liverpool are through to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2008 after yet again defeating Manchester City, with the 2-1 victory at the Etihad handing Jürgen Klopp’s side a 5-1 aggregate win. Gabriel Jesus’ goal inside two minutes gave the hosts a perfect start, but second-half goals from Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino completed the turn-around and sealed Liverpool’s progression on another famous European night. Here’s Lewis (@TizTaz99) with the talking points.

Reds ride their luck but show just how far they’ve come…

And breathe. It was a bumpy road at times but those beautiful and wonderful boys in Red have done it. Although, every Liverpool fan must have been fearing the worst when Jesus got City right back into the side with such an early strike. It was such a sloppy goal to concede with Loris Karius making the stupid decision to throw the ball to Virgil Van Dijk when Raheem Sterling was far too close to the defender, but the Dutchman didn’t help matters by clearing the ball straight into the middle of the park rather than out of play or down the line. The goal then brought about wave after wave of City attacks, with Bernardo Silva hitting the post and Leroy Sane having a goal very controversially ruled out for offside. Replays showed the ball hit James Milner before rebounding back to Sane who scored and this the goal should have scored. Moments like this fortunately went Liverpool’s way over the two legs, and thankfully the Reds took full advantage. A 5-1 aggregate win over Manchester City, the run-away soon-to-be Premier League champions, a team packed full of world class players, shows just how far Jürgen Klopp has taken Liverpool since he took the reigns. The football being played is sensational, the defence has improved massively and many of the world’s stars must be looking at the club thinking what a great team to sign for. Allez Allez Allez.

Backs to the wall in first-half highlights need for consistent midfield quality…

After the first leg Klopp called on his players to retain possession much better for the return game, but sadly they let him down and it was the main reason the Reds struggled so much before the break. The midfield was a big problem area for this, with the likes of Milner, Gini Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain far too sloppy in possession and as a result giving the defence no chance to take a breath. Ox attempted to make a few runs from deep and this was what his side needed more of. The second-half was a completely different story, and Wijnaldum epitomised this as well as anyone. He got his foot on the ball, slowed things down, and as he did against Everton at the weekend, turned into spaces and weaved past opposition players to create gaps. The game showcased the real need for consistent and reliable quality in the Liverpool midfield, with a first-half like the one we saw simply not acceptable if the Reds want to compete for major honours. Signings like Naby Keita will certainly help this, and especially if Emre Can leaves then a player like Jorginho would make a huge difference in the number 6 position. The second-half showed that guys like Wijnaldum can do it, but it needs to be for a full ninety minutes.

Main man Mo nets vital goal and benefits from Klopp’s tactical switch…Embed from Getty Images

Many Liverpool and football fans said it in the build-up to the game – score and Liverpool are through. As good as Pep Guardiola’s side may be going forward, though one goal over two legs suggests we didn’t see that, Liverpool are resolute enough defensively to not concede five goals. This proved true as the visitors, out of nowhere, started the second-half really well and actually maintained possession. Then, a brilliant first touch from Sadio Mane creates the space and after the ball squirms away, who else but Mo Salah is there to score the all-important equalizer. The goal actually has a lot of tactical parts behind it, with the space Salah initially had before playing in Mane only available to him because of Guardiola’s switch to a back three – a regular back four and one of the centre-backs likely prevents the chance. Also, Salah was only in that central position as a result of Klopp’s tinker in the first-half to move Salah up front and Firmino out wide. Of course we can’t not talk about the Egyptian’s finish, with the intelligence required to realise that Kyle Walker was going to slide in and thus decide to chip him simply superb.  The goal means Salah has now notched up 50 goal contributions in all competitions so far this season – 39 goals and 11 assists, and who knows what else he is capable of achieving before the season’s close.

From now on, just enjoy the ride and anything is possible…

The other tie played on Tuesday night was arguably even more remarkable as Roma overcame a 4-1 deficit from the first-leg to win 3-0 and on away goals against Barcelona. Luis Suarez and co being knocked out makes the semi-finals really wide open now, even if Real Madrid and Bayern Munich progress as expected on Wednesday. Reaching the quarter-final stage of the Champions League was probably the minimum target in the competition for Liverpool supporters, but now that has been achieved and bettered, anything could happen. Real Madrid are just ridiculously good when it comes to knockout matches, and Bayern are extremely well rounded. Roma may be a bit of a wildcard but they have won every game at home in the Champions League this season, all without conceding a goal. Any of the three teams would be tricky, but guess what? None of those teams will want to face Liverpool or the prospect of the Anfield atmosphere for a European night against the competitions’ highest goal-scorers. Make us dream Jürgen. Make us dream.

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