Liverpool battered Manchester City 3-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal at Anfield on Wednesday, as Jurgen Klopp‘s men have one foot in the last four of the European Cup.
An incredible first 30 minutes saw Liverpool score three times as Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane were on target against a stunned Man City side who didn’t muster a single shot on target.
[ RECAP: Liverpool 3-0 Man City ]
Pep Guardiola‘s City never recovered from Liverpool’s fast start and didn’t muster a single shot on target in the first half as they missed Sergio Aguero and put in a shaky defensive display.
Here’s what we learned from another famous European night for Liverpool at Anfield.
ENGLISH TRIO STIFLE CITY’S MIDFIELD
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jordan Henderson and James Milner stifled Manchester City’s star midfield duo of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne on Wednesday as the English trio pressed high in the first half and didn’t stop running until the final whistle.
It was a bold move for Klopp to tell his players to press high from the start, but he stuck to his philosophy and it paid off handsomely with Milner, the Ox and Henderson setting the tone for a near-perfect display.
Sure, Liverpool sat back and City had plenty of the ball in the second half but the damage was done early on by the home side.
If Liverpool were going to have any chance of beating City, that had to play this way. Their second goal summed up their approach perfectly as James Milner snapped in with a challenge and the onrushing Oxlade-Chamberlain, just as he did in January, rifled home at the Kop.
In the 4-3 league win against City in January, Liverpool played this way but it didn’t work as well. Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum didn’t have the defensive discipline of Milner and Henderson and that allowed Oxlade-Chamberlain the chance to surge forward and create problems.
Man City didn’t get going in the first half and that was because Liverpool’s midfield didn’t let them.
Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Milner set the tone for a special win as Liverpool are dreaming of the UCL semifinals.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised about this win. After all, Klopp has now beaten Guardiola six times as a manager which is more than any other coach.
Klopp’s heavy metal style destroyed Guardiola’s Man City masterpiece, especially in the midfield area they almost always dominate.
Kyle Walker, CITY FREEZE AS PEP HANDS INITIATIVE TO LIVERPOOL
You can’t complain about the way Guardiola has set up Man City this season. They’re 16 points clear atop the Premier League with just one defeat all season. But Pep got it badly wrong on Wednesday.
And his demeanor on the sidelines suggested that he knew he had got it wrong.
From the off Man City’s manager handed the psychological initiative to Liverpool as he decided to start Ilkay Gundogan on the right of midfield over Raheem Sterling. Not only did City lose Sterling’s pace and attacking intent but it also unsettled Kyle Walker behind him at right back and that had a huge impact on City’s entire defense.
On Liverpool’s first goal Walker tried to cheat as he didn’t get over close enough to get to Salah and then as the loose ball fell to him in the box from Firmino’s shot, he hesitated and allowed Firmino to knick in and tee up Salah to make it 1-0. Walker was also caught out and unable to challenge Mane for Liverpool’s third goal and his shaky display spread to the rest of the City backline as both Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany failed to cope with the movement and pressure from Liverpool’s entire attacking unit.
Pep admitted his mistake in the second half as Sterling came on after 57 minutes for Gundogan but the England winger, who has scored 21 goals this season, struggled to make an impact just days after he played a key part in City ripping Everton apart.
City have given themselves a mountain to climb for the second leg at the Etihad Stadium next Tuesday but given the fact they smacked 10-man Liverpool 5-0 earlier this season, Guardiola will know his team are capable of turning this around.
But his tactical gamble and City’s defense freezing has dug them a heck of a hole to get out of.
LIVERPOOL FEED OFF ANFIELD CAULDRON
It felt like Klopp’s entire project at Liverpool was building towards this night. When he was hired in October 2015, phrases such as “heavy metal football” and “full throttle” hung in the air.
For better and for worse it has been that way ever since and Wednesday felt like the night Klopp’s philosophy and planning all come together perfectly.
This was a huge statement from Klopp.
Before the game Liverpool’s fans lined the cramped streets around Anfield to welcome their team bus in as it obviously inspired them to a rapid start. Unsavory scenes involving Man City’s team bus having debris thrown at it by Liverpool fans was strongly condemned by the club in a statement as City’s players appeared to be rattled.
Thanks to the fast start and early goals, the atmosphere at Anfield was consistent with so many special European nights on that hallowed turf in the past. It helped their players focus on keeping a clean sheet after their incredible start and not conceding an away goal was hugely important.
Liverpool are now unbeaten in their last 15 European games at home and they will hope one more famous Anfield night is coming up as they dream of winning a sixth European Cup.
If Klopp’s project continues on this trajectory, there will be plenty of special European nights for his team to enjoy in the future.