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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.

10-man Red Bulls hold off Atlanta United at home

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Atlanta United’s five-game winning streak went up in smoke as the New York Red Bulls pulled off an incredible 1-0 victory.

Playing down a man for around 65 minutes, the Red Bulls shutout Atlanta United’s high powered offense in front of 18,495 fans at Red Bull Arena. Tom Barlow, in just his second appearance with the Red Bulls, scored the game-winning goal in the 65th minute off a header at the far post, one that left U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Brad Guzan rooted to his line.

[READ: Pep: Domestic Treble harder than UCL]

Tim Parker was shown a straight red card in controversial fashion, after grabbing Josef Martinez’s left arm with Martinez in front of him just outside the box. Martinez was clearly pulled back but continued running and eventually got a shot off that Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles parried away.

Referee Robert Sbiga then decided to call the play back and award Atlanta United a free kick outside the box. After what seemed to be consultation with his assistants, Sbiga then showed Parker a straight red card, likely for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO) while Martinez was through on goal.

The outcome is a massive one for the Red Bulls. It’s been a rough season, with the loss of both Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams and the poor form of Bradley Wright-Phillips up top. Wright-Phillips was out on Sunday and another attacker Andreas Ivan, went off with an injury in the first half as he was about to be substituted off anyways following the red card.

Alejandro Romero Gamarra, Kaku, has made his feelings known that he wants (or wanted) to leave the club. His form hasn’t been stellar this season either.

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s finally found its way back into the win column and is looking more like the juggernaut from last season, especially with five-straight shutout wins. It’s all back to zero today though, with the defeat at the Red Bulls on a perfect grass pitch up a man.

Mbappe hints he could leave PSG

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Kylian Mbappe accepted his award as the Ligue 1 MVP, dedicated it to Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, and then mentioned he could be off soon to another club.

Wait, what?

Yes, following Mbappe accepting his award, the French star and World Cup winner stated he hoped he could continue his career at PSG but left open the possibility of moving to another club that allows him to take the next steps in his career.

[READ: Kompany to join Anderlecht as player-manager]

“This is a very important moment for me, I arrive at a first or second turn of my career,” Mbappe said, via L’equipe. “I’ve discovered a lot of things here, I feel that maybe it’s time to have more responsibility. I hope it may be at Paris Saint-Germain, it would be with great pleasure, or perhaps elsewhere for a new project.”

Mbappe later clarified his comments, stating he was looking for more responsibility. “If it’s at PSG, that’s good. If it is elsewhere, it will be elsewhere for a new challenge.

“For me, it was time to say it. I am someone whole: when I say something, I think it. For me, it was the right time to say it. That’s it, I said it!”

It’s unclear why exactly Mbappe used this moment to put some pressure on PSG. Perhaps its to remind them that the club needs to be successful in its transfer endeavors this summer, so it can compete deep into the UEFA Champions League. With Neymar injured and a central midfield ravaged by injuries, PSG capitulated and somehow fell to Manchester United in the Champions League Round of 16, grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

There’s no reason why PSG can’t dominate the Champions League like it does Ligue 1, especially with the attacking trident of Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani. But of course, against better competition, the inferiority in mentality and in talent along the backline has started to show.

So, where could Mbappe go? There’s very few places that could effectively match both his salary and his competitive goals. It’s the usual suspects, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and perhaps Manchester City, should they be interested in it. More recently, while Man City has spent big, it’s been on signing multiple players on $50 million transfers, as opposed to one player on a $200 million transfer, for example.

It’s unlikely, but an intriguing option would be Liverpool. If the club somehow came up with the funds, imagine Mbappe playing alongside Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, with Roberto Firmino coming in to spell either of the three over the course of the season. Mbappe would likely make up that one-point difference between Liverpool and Man City, and if that’s what it takes for Liverpool to finally win the title, it could be worth the initial massive investment.

Messi finishes season leading La Liga in goals, assists, and more

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Lionel Messi turns 32 this summer, and after more than a dozen years of first team soccer, playing more than 50 games a season, the old man’s still got it.

The Argentine star, playing his first season in almost a decade without direct competition from Cristiano Ronaldo, scored twice as Barcelona tied Eibar, 2-2. The two goals gave him 34 for the season, by far the most by any player in the league, and his 50th in all competitions.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Messi also led La Liga this season with 13 assists, 136 shots, 85 shots on target and 70 through balls. In terms of successful dribbles, Messi’s 132 fell seven short of Celta Vigo’s Sofiane Boufal.

Messi’s 34 goals gave him his sixth Pichichi, the trophy given to the league’s leading scorer. Messi is now tied with legendary Telmo Zarra for the all-time record of most Pichichi’s, and Messi is now three ahead of Ronaldo.

As if Messi wasn’t already a legendary player, the man seems to be showing no signs of slowing down. It may have helped that he skipped matches with Argentina after the 2018 World Cup this past fall, keeping him fresh for Barcelona. Even so, the man looks as good, if not better, with age.

Messi already holds the record for most goals in league history, and at this rate, he’ll set it to a level that will be almost impossible to reach. While he’s going to be remembered for his incredible control on the ball, it doesn’t hurt that he’s been incredibly productive during his career, including in 2018-2019. Barcelona won the league title with ease and the club made the UEFA Champions League semifinal. If for some better defending, Messi could be contesting for another Champions League title.

Nani scores twice as Orlando City thrashes FC Cincinnati

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Nani may not be the star he once was while he played for Manchester United, but he’s still making a powerful impact in MLS.

The Portuguese international scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season as Orlando City ran circles expansion side FC Cincinnati, winning 5-1. Along with Nani, Tesho Akindele scored a brace and Dom Dwyer came off the bench and scored a header in the win.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Aside from having a chance to record a big win over a struggling side, Orlando City may have been ultra motivated on Sunday. Orlando City manager James O’Connor has history with FC Cincinnati from his time at Louisville City, with intense rivalry matches taking place as well as arguments between O’Connor and former FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch on the sidelines.

FC Cincinnati actually went up early with a Darren Mattocks finish past Brian Rowe, but it didn’t take long for Orlando City to respond. Akindele fired home from 20-yards out in the 37th minute to make it 1-1. Early in the second half, Nani scored on a penalty kick rebound to make it 2-1 to the hosts, and then he added a second off a cross from the right to blast the game wide open.

With the win, Orlando City moved just one point outside of a playoff place, while Cincinnati remains in the basement of the Eastern Conference. However, Orlando City has a difficult road ahead, with matches against the LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact and D.C. United to come.