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Liverpool knocks Man City out of UCL

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Manchester City is out of the UEFA Champions League, as Liverpool defeated the Premier League leaders for the third time in four tries, this time a 2-1 set back at the Etihad Stadium that puts the Reds into the semifinals.

Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino scored for a 5-1 aggregate win, with Gabriel Jesus scoring Man City’s goal early.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Heads whipped up to the clock. It read just over two minutes, and Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus had just shaped a shot around the splayed Loris Karius to make it 3-1 on aggregate.

Sadio Mane saw yellow for a studs first challenge that perhaps unintentionally slipped into Nicolas Otamendi’s groin.

A dangerous free kick near the end line was next, but City could not cut the deficit to one.

Bernardo Silva chested down a diagonal ball and played to the top of the box for Kevin De Bruyne, who’s low shot was not a problem for Karius. It remained 1-0 (1-3) in the 27th minute.

City continued to control play, and Silva curled a 20-yard shot that took a slight turn off Dejan Lovren and onto the far post at the dawn of the 42nd minute.

Leroy Sane then saw a goal controversially pulled back for offside.

And then this:

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Salah seemingly put the tie to bed with an away goal in the 56th minute, a moment after the Reds perhaps should’ve been awarded a penalty for a foul on Mane.

Sterling tore past Georginio Wijnaldum and Van Dijk to earn a free kick in the 66th minute. Sergio Aguero replaced David Silva before play restarted in Manchester.

Player ratings: Liverpool v. Man City

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Liverpool battered Manchester City 3-0 at Anfield on Wednesday in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal.

[ MORE: Recap | 3 things we learned ]

Jurgen Klopp‘s men have one foot in the semifinals as Pep Guardiola got his tactics badly wrong and his team froze in the cauldron of Anfield.

Here’s a mark out of 10 for the players who took part in the all-Premier League battle.


Liverpool

Loris Karius – 6 – He really didn’t have much to do. No shots on target from City and a dodgy kick early on. All good apart from that.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7 – Solid display after a shaky one at Palace at the weekend. Dealt with the threat of Leroy Sane superbly.

Dejan Lovren – 7 – Did what he had to do well enough. Wasn’t tested by Gabriel Jesus who hardly had any service.

Virgil Van Dijk – 7 – See above. A few loose passes but had little to do apart from keeping his position and clearing a few crosses.

Andrew Robertson – 8 – Some fine surging runs from left back and dealt with Gundogan well. Another terrific display.

James Milner – 9 – Great pass to set up Salah on his way to scoring the first and an all-action display. A proper leader.

Jordan Henderson – 8 – Didn’t put a foot wrong and led Liverpool from the heart of their midfield. Captain’s display.

Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain – 9 – A wonderful goal for Liverpool’s second and a committed, tireless display. Terrific.

Sadio Mane – 8 – Headed home their third goal and caused so many problems with his pace. Well and truly back to his best.

Roberto Firmino – 7 – Did so well to set up Salah for his goal and his runs in-behind rattled Kompany and Otamendi.

Mohamed Salah – 8 – Came off injured in the second half with what looked like a slight groin strain. Calm finish to make it 1-0, then set up Mane with a peach of a cross for Liverpool’s third. Same old Salah, always scoring and that’s 38 for the season now.

Subs
Georginio Wijnaldum on for Mohamed Salah (53′) – 6 – Solid enough and added extra legs to midfield as Liverpool tired.
Dominic Solanke on for Roberto Firmino (71′) – 6 – One good run behind the City defense and tried his best to hold up the ball.
Alberto Moreno on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6 – Late sub to help Liverpool keep a clean sheet.


Manchester City

Ederson – 6 – Didn’t have a lot to do apart from picking the ball out of his net three times.

Kyle Walker – 4 – Really poor first half display. Caught napping by Firmino for the first and let Mane go for the third goal. Maybe he should just play as a right-sided center back going forward?

Vincent Kompany – 4 – Not a great night for the City skipper. Struggled to deal with the movement of Firmino and couldn’t galvanize City’s shaky backline.

Nicolas Otamendi – 3 – A poor night for the Argentine center back. Came waltzing out of the back to give the ball away for Liverpool’s killer third goal.

Aymeric Laporte – 5 – Did okay out of position at left back after a slow start but dealing with the threat of Salah never easy. Caught out of position by Milner for Liverpool’s first goal.

Fernandinho – 4 – Failed to shield City’s backline and looked nervous in possession. Lost the battle to Milner and Henderson and couldn’t cope with the Ox running at him.

Ilkay Gundogan – 4 – Started on the right instead of Sterling and it didn’t work. Failed to protect Walker and didn’t add anything going forward.

David Silva – 6 – Did better in the second half as he tried to drag City back into the game and didn’t anticipate a loose ball falling his way in the box as he could have scored.

Kevin De Bruyne – 5 – A rare off night for KDB as he couldn’t get on the ball in the first half and then struggled out wide in the second half early on, then moved back into the center.

Leroy Sane – 6 – A rare bright spark for City in the first half and he was always a threat but couldn’t do it all on his own.

Gabriel Jesus – 4 – Hardly touched the ball all game long. An isolated figure and seemed to freeze on the big night.

Sub
Raheem Sterling on for Ilkay Gundogan (57′) – 4 – Didn’t impact the game at all and was predictably booed by fans of his former club. Should have started. Could have easily won a penalty kick late on after Robertson caught him in the box.

Three things Learned: Liverpool-Man City

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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.

Liverpool 3-0 Man City in UCL quarterfinal first leg

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Now who saw this coming?

Liverpool pummeled Manchester City for 45 minutes then held firm for 45 more as the Reds claimed a 3-0 UEFA Champions League quarterfinal first leg at Anfield on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things we learned ]

Mohamed Salah scored and had an assist but was subbed off with a leg injury. Both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane also scored for Liverpool.

The second leg is Tuesday at the Etihad Stadium. Jordan Henderson picked up a late yellow card and will miss it via accumulation.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Salah looked to be just offside in the build-up to his opener, which came 10 seconds after the initial ball and with Man City somehow losing track of the Egyptian genius.

It was 2-0 eight minutes later, as the 20th minute saw Oxlade-Chamberlain belt a shot past a flying Ederson.

And barely another 10 minutes had come off the clock when Mane rose to head home from a Salah cross.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Salah was injured and left the match for Georginio Wijnaldum in the 53rd minute.

The 52nd minute saw Fernandinho spotting Leroy Sane at the back of the six, but the German sliced his shot wide of the frame.

City was in better form as Raheem Sterling replaced Ilkay Gundogan with more than a half hour to play.

But the visitors were just a shade off all afternoon, with even David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne taking sloppy touches in prime areas.

City had a goal but Sane was flagged for a razor-thin off side before Gabriel Jesus slid to tap home in the 84th minute.

Watch Live: Liverpool v. Watford

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Liverpool host Watford at Anfield on Saturday (1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Jurgen Klopp‘s men aiming to go third in the Premier League table.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

With Liverpool’s other top four rivals Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea all in FA Cup action this weekend, this is a chance for the Reds to give themselves some breathing space.

Javi Gracia and Watford know the pressure is off as they sit in 10th place in the table and they will see this game as a free hit.

In team news Liverpool bring in Joel Matip, Joe Gomez, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum into the starting lineup.

Watford bring in Britos for Janmaat.


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