There is no love lost between Barcelona and Real Madrid most of the time but so extraordinary was Cristiano Ronaldo‘s overhead goal against Juve in Tuesday night’s Champions League quarter-final that it even has Blaugrana players in awe.
After Barca’s own-goal assisted 4-1 win over AS Roma on Wednesday night, midfielder Ivan Rakitic was asked about Ronaldo’s “worldie” and he couldn’t help but enthuse.
Seeming to remember the fierce rivalry between the Spanish giants halfway through – Rakitic checked himself and began to temper his praise, noting that Los Blancos are not the current focus of Barca as there is still a second leg to play against Juve next Tuesday at the Nou Camp – as much as a formality as that would now seem following the three goal advantage from the home leg.
Buoyed by their home support, Liverpool raced to a 3-0 lead in just over half an hour with goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Sadio Mane. They held on with surprising resolve as Klopp outwitted Guardiola yet again.
Goals – 3
Shots – 9
Possession – 34%
Tackles – 24
Dribbles – 19
Goals – 0
Shots – 11
Possession – 66%
Tackles – 22
Dribbles – 15
Klopp went with his usual 4-3-3, with the big call being entrusting Trent Alexander-Arnold with a starting berth in a match of this magnitude so soon after the young right-back’s poor display against Manchester United.
The youngster did well but this performance was all about his attacking team-mates. A classic Klopp performance as Liverpool pressed and harried City’s pass masters, and countered to perfection to take control of the tie.
Guardiola had a decision to make with his pick for left-back, and he opted for £57million centre-back Aymeric Laporte to deputise at that position. The other big call was leaving Raheem Sterling on the bench and picking Ilkay Gundogan to start, choosing midfield control over attacking explosiveness.
It didn’t work as for all of City’s possession, they couldn’t break Liverpool down and had no answer to the Reds’ counter.
Gerrard on Liverpool: "I think the word to use is 'perfect'."— DaveOCKOP (@DaveOCKOP) April 4, 2018
TACTICAL TALKING POINTS
LIVERPOOL LEARN GAME MANAGEMENT
Klopp has gotten stick during his Liverpool tenure for seemingly never being able to get his team to take its foot off the gas. On Wednesday, having raced out to a 3-0 lead, Liverpool showed another side to their game.
They came out of the halftime break knowing they’d have to defend, and they soaked up the pressure with aplomb. No ill-advised attacking forays, no unnecessary pressing. Knocked out of their usual style, Liverpool sat deep and kept out City’s vaunted attack with remarkable ease.
NO PLAN B – GUARDIOLA’S OLD FAILING RETURNS
Guardiola insists he’s not an ideologue who only knows one way, but history has shown otherwise and Wednesday was another example.
Picking Gundogan over Sterling may have proven to be the wrong call but swapping the two in the second half wasn’t exactly an inspired substitution. Sterling has plenty of ability but he was never going to offer anything different to what City already had on the pitch – and Liverpool had a handle on that. The truth is, Guardiola had nobody else to turn to.
0 - Manchester City failed to direct a single shot on target in a game for the first time since 26th October 2016 (v Man Utd in the League Cup). Blunt.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 4, 2018
Klopp’s trust in a young player paid off, as Alexander-Arnold got the better of his duel with Leroy Sane. His team’s intensity and pressing stunned England’s supposed best side yet again. And Liverpool have a 3-0 lead. Klopp’s night couldn’t have gone better.
Rating – 9/10
Guardiola has historically struggled against Klopp and this performance showed he still hasn’t found an answer. His selection didn’t work, he had no counter for Liverpool’s press, and he couldn’t coax any improvement out of his team. One of Guardiola’s worst nights as a manager.
Rating – 3/10
Liverpool produced a memorable Champions League performance to stun Manchester City, as they won 3-0 at Anfield in the first leg of their quarter-final tie.
Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane all scored in the first half as Jurgen Klopp’s men blew away their Premier League rivals to give themselves a three-goal advantage ahead of the second leg.
Here we take a look at some of the key stats to come out of the clash.
– Jurgen Klopp has now defeated opposite number Pep Guardiola seven times (in 13 games).
– Liverpool have now scored 18 goals against English sides in the Champions League, the same amount they have netted against Spanish opposition.
– The Reds have kept six clean sheets in a Champions League season for the first time since 2006/07 (7).
– Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 11 Champions League matches (won five and drawn six) – their second-longest streak in the competition after 14 in a row from December 2004 to December 2005.
– James Milner has provided eight assists in the Champions League this season. Only Neymar (2016/17) and Wayne Rooney (2013/14) have provided the same amount.
– Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain became the first English player to score multiple goals in a single Champions League season for Liverpool since Steven Gerrard in 2014/15 (2).
– Mohamed Salah has scored seven Champions League goals this season. Among African players, only Samuel Eto’o has scored more in a single season – he netted eight for Inter in 2010/11.
All match facts and statistics are provided by Gracenote.