However, after a verbal kick up the backside from Lovren and some tactical input from Klopp, the second half proved to be a totally different affair with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino scoring to secure a 2-1 win and 5-1 aggregate victory.
“To be honest I was shouting a bit at half-time,” said Lovren. “I told the lads to wake up because it was not good enough and I said we were sitting too deep.
“Of course Klopp said ‘Yes you are sitting too deep because you are not pushing up’. He wanted me and Virg (Virgil van Dijk) to be more compact and push the team up, but it was quite difficult to push up when City had the ball.
“It was all positive, there was nothing negative, but I needed to remind the guys that we had 50 minutes to be in the semi-finals of the Champions League and we needed to give more.
“The first 10-15 minutes wasn’t good enough. When you see the second half, again they had a couple of chances but nothing too serious.”
The victory was Liverpool’s second in a week over the Premier League champions-elect and their third over Guardiola’s side – who have lost just seven matches in all competitions – this season.
It extended Klopp’s impressive personal record against the Catalan to eight wins and one draw from their 14 meetings, better than any of his contemporaries.
The frustration for Liverpool is that they have not been able to convert that into more of a challenge on the domestic front, trailing City by 17 points in the league.
“The regret is definitely the first six or seven games of the season in the Premier League,” added Lovren.
“We had many draws and they took us out of the first place. I would say we didn’t have any luck with injuries again and City didn’t have injuries all season.
“It was weird because we didn’t catch up well from the beginning. I’m definitely confident that next season we can push everyone, even ourselves, to do better from the beginning to the end.
“They deserve to be champions but we are in good shape now and hopefully we can go to the final and it can be a good season for us. Also, we need to finish in the top four for next season.”
With 12-time winners Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, who have won it five times, expected to complete the semi-final line-up alongside Liverpool and Roma, who stunned Barcelona, Lovren is clear who he wants to avoid in the last four.
“From a personal point of view I don’t want Real Madrid in the semi-finals. They have a lot of experience in the Champions League, a lot of records and over the past three seasons it is always them,” he said.
“But whoever we get will find it difficult to come to Anfield and score some goals.
“When you concede one goal and score five against Manchester City I think we should respect Liverpool more.
“People talked from the beginning about Manchester City being favourites and they were favourites, but I think after this there should be more respect for Liverpool.”
A goal in the second minute from Gabriel Jesus meant a City revival from the 3-0 Anfield defeat was suddenly on the cards.
However, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino struck in the second half to kill the tie which did serve up an intriguing tactical battle between Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.
Goals – 1
Shots – 20
Possession – 68%
Tackles – 15
Dribbles – 18
Goals – 2
Shots – 5
Possession – 32%
Tackles – 15
Dribbles – 14
City were set up in a 3-4-3 formation with Guardiola taking a leaf out of Gareth Southgate’s book and deploying Kyle Walker on the right side of a three-man central defence. A diamond midfield with Raheem Sterling at its tip dominated the middle of the park while testing Liverpool’s resolve.
It was always a risky game at the back though and a deadly Liverpool attack on the break extinguished any hope of a comeback in the second half.
Retaining their preferred 4-3-3 system, Liverpool were perhaps more compact than they’ve been all season – and they needed to be. They struggled to get on the ball for much of the first half but stuck to their guns despite going behind in the second minute.
With City getting more desperate as the game progressed, the Reds were on hand to pounce on any errors and do what they do best – hit on the break.
TACTICAL TALKING POINTS
OVERLOADING THE FLANKS
With Liverpool naturally more inclined to contain City, Guardiola went with three at the back, outnumbering the visitors in midfield and intelligently overloading the flanks.
Fernandinho was entrusted with anchoring the midfield while Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva were split pretty wide on either side of him, affording them the option to drift into central areas when the space opened up or link-up with Sterling or Sane out wide. They put Liverpool’s young full-backs under pressure in the first half but couldn’t capitalise on the advantage.
FRONT THREE PLAY
Salah wasn’t seeing much of the ball out wide and midway through the first half, he moved centrally.
Firmino was key to containing the hosts as he dropped into midfield regularly while defending, leaving Mane and Salah available on the break. The Egyptian focused on getting on the end of final balls and keeping City’s stretched defence occupied, inevitably equalising.
While Liverpool weren’t as aggressive as they were in the first leg, the front three kept up the high press and it paid dividends, leading to the second goal.
Credit to the Spaniard for the way he approached the game. His tactics gave his side the best possible chance and they were on the wrong end of a couple of controversial decisions. He loses points for needlessly getting sent to the stands for the second half.
Rating – 6/10
Klopp was calm. That was to be expected as his side boasted a 3-0 advantage but it would’ve been easy to get rattled after the early goal. Instead, he only made subtle tweaks to ensure his side retained an attacking threat and waited for City to slip up.
Rating – 7/10
Pep Guardiola’s Premier League champions-elect gained valuable hope almost from kick-off when Gabriel Jesus tapped in following feisty work from ex-Red Raheem Sterling. This narrowed the aggregate advantage to 3-1.
But after Leroy Sane had a goal incorrectly flagged for offside close to the interval, the Blues imploded. As the dismissed Guardiola watched from the stands, Mohamed Salah dinked in and Roberto Firmino slotted into the bottom corner after Nicolas Otamendi’s mistake.
Here are our City player ratings:
MANCHESTER CITY (3-4-3)
Ederson – 6: Could have received worse than a yellow after repeatedly jabbing at Mane. Left exposed for Salah’s goal.
Kyle Walker – 6: Utilised in same role he now occupies for England. This negated his usual attacking influence from deep.
Nicolas Otamendi – 3: Lost head as Salah stood him up for crucial Liverpool opener. Even worse followed when he gifted second to Firmino.
Aymeric Laporte – 5: Record buy was burned off by Mane’s pace and trickery for opener. At present, looks short of standard expected.
Fernandinho – 4: The Brazil dynamo looks to be running on fumes. Pass accuracy was way down at 82.1 per cent.
Kevin De Bruyne – 5: Drifted between centre and wide right. But delivered only two key passes and five harmless shots.
David Silva – 5: Similar story for Spain international. Tried to work overload on wings from his position in diamond. But no telling moment followed.
Raheem Sterling – 6: Helped give City perfect start when he, questionably, barged over much-bigger Van Dijk. Couldn’t build on this.
Bernardo Silva – 6: Began excellently and then faded. Hit post, but was hooked as influence diminished after the break.
Gabriel Jesus – 5: Comeback looked on when he found bottom corner for 13th goal of 2017/18. But no more shots from him followed.
Leroy Sane – 6: Overload on wings was designed to get best of him. Incorrectly flagged for offside for what would have been critical second goal.
Sergio Aguero – 5: Given more than 20 minutes to salvage something. Had one attempt which was off-target.
Ilkay Gundogan – 5: The ill-fitting tactical piece from first leg couldn’t deliver any redemption as City were well beaten at that stage.