The Premier League leaders bowed out of the competition on Tuesday despite launching a spirited fightback in their quarter-final against Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium.
Jesus struck in the second minute as City made a stunning start in their attempts to overturn a 3-0 first-leg deficit but the task ultimately proved beyond them on a compelling but controversial night.
City were stung by an incorrect decision to disallow a Leroy Sane goal for offside and, as Liverpool weathered the storm, second-half strikes from Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino secured a 5-1 aggregate success.
“It’s difficult to take,” said Jesus. “It wasn’t what we wanted but this is part of football.
“We didn’t play great in the two games but we congratulate Liverpool and focus on the six games we have until the end of the season to wrap up the title.”
City played at high intensity as they completely dominated the first half and produced numerous chances to further reduce the arrears after Jesus’ opener.
The drama was at its most fierce just before the break as Bernardo Silva hit the post and Sane was then thwarted by a flag raised wrongly after the ball came to him off Liverpool’s James Milner.
That prompted some angry protests that continued after the half-time whistle, with City boss Pep Guardiola sent to the stands for complaining to referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz.
Jesus said: “We managed to score very early, in the second minute which was very important, and then after that we managed to control the ball and keep it in their half.
“Then we had a goal disallowed for Sane and that was difficult to take because it affected the game a little bit.
“But it’s hard to talk about a goal, and whether it’s allowed or not. It is part of football and sometimes these things happen.”
It has been a difficult week for City, with their two losses to Liverpool coming either side of a derby defeat by Manchester United.
The United loss denied them the chance to wrap up the Premier League title with a record six games to spare and they may now need another two victories to secure the crown.
The title could be won if City win at Tottenham on Saturday and United lose to West Brom on Sunday, but failing that the wait could go on to games against Swansea or West Ham later this month.
Jesus, 21, said: “We didn’t manage to win the first leg at Liverpool, against United we allowed them to overcome our lead and then it happened again. I can’t find a specific reason for it, it just happened.
“But it’s heads up. There are six games to go and we must focus on that, finish the season with a Premier League trophy. It’s nearly done but now we need to wrap it up.”
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