A disastrous evening for Pep Guardiola‘s City saw the Premier League champions-elect succumb to a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of a rampant Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals.
All of his sublimely talented squad put in sub-par performances in the first half when they were hassled out of the game by Jurgen Klopp’s superbly executed “gegen-pressing”. So poor were City they failed to get one shot on target in the entire 90 minutes.
Here are our playing ratings:
Ederson – 6: Not at fault for either of the three goals but nor did he pull off the de Gea like heroics that may have saved City.
Kyle Walker – 5: Surprisingly kept quiet by Andy Robertson in the first half, at fault for first goal. Came into the game more in the second half.
Nicolas Otamendi – 5: At fault for Liverpool’s first and third goals but tried hard to redeem himself pushing forward regularly without the accuracy that was required.
Vincent Kompany – 6: Seemed off the pace and shellshocked in the first half. More solid in the second half with Salah gone but not his best night.
Aymeric Laporte – 4: A superb tackle on Oxlade-Chamberlain kept the score at 3-0 and he was a calm presence in the City backline the whole night.
Ilkay Gundogan – 4: Played out of position on the left and was anonymous in the first period as Liverpool ran riot. Substituted on 56 mins for Sterling.
Fernandinho – 5: Lost Sadio Mane for the third goal and was smothered in the midfield, not his usual self either in terms of distribution or presence.
David Silva – 6: Worked hard during the night without getting that magic touch or assist and missed a great chance late on.
Kevin De Bruyne – 6: Tackled out of the match in the first half by Milner but started to exert some influence in the second period.
Gabriel Jesus – 5: Unseen in the first half but came into more in the second half. Frustrated much of the night and inaccurate in front of goal.
Leroy Sane – 4: A sloppy start with missed chances and a loose pass leading to Liverpool’s first goal. More ball in the second half without much improvement.
Raheem Sterling – 8: Booed relentlessly but was dangerous down the right and created headaches for Robertson. Among City’s best.
Manchester City dominated the first ten minutes but the next twenty belonged to Liverpool as they went 3-0 up on 31 minutes – and held on for a famous victory in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals.
City were off-color most of the night with their usual precision in attack sadly a miss. So poor were they, the Cityzens did not register a single shot on goal all night. Flabbergasting from the team who has scored 85 goals in the Premier League this season.
Liverpool took their chances superbly and with Man of the Match James Milner breaking up attack after attack, as well as playing a big part in all three goals, the Reds were deserved winners and now take a defendable lead to the Etihad.
Here are our playing ratings.
Lorus Karius – 7: Very little to do before half time and just a little more in the second half. Handled what he needed to handle comfortably.
Andy Robertson – 7: Surging runs down the left kept Kyle Walker busy in the first stanza. Given a bigger test by Sterling after the break.
Virgil van Dijk – 7: Still exerting a cool head in the middle of the Reds defence but some slack passes early in second half put his side under needless pressure.
Dejan Lovren – 7: A relatively assured performance without the usual blooper Reds fans have become used to. Surprisingly untested by a tame city attack.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8: Over-shadowed Sane in the first half and won some good challenges in the second. Came up with some key intercepts after the break.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 7: A stunning strike to put the Reds 2-0 up and some nice touches in the first half. Not so prominent after the break.
James Milner – 9: Played a huge part in all three first half goals and was everywhere in the first half. Faded a little in the second half but still a worthy Man of the Match
Jordan Henderson – 8: Worked hard in the first half and kept it up in the second period working hard in defence and winning some key challenges.
Sadio Mane – 8: Drifted in the first half before popping up for the third goal, worked hard in the second half as he played out the full 90.
Robert Firmino – 7: Showed superb balance to set up Salah’s opener and worked hard all night. Surprisingly removed on 70 minutes for Dominic Solanke
Mohamed Salah – 7: Not at his completely dominant best but took the first goal well. Replaced on 55 minutes taking much of the sting out of the Reds attack.
Georginio Wijnaldum – 6: Came on early in second half and made a positive impact.
Dominic Solanke – 5: Brought on by Klopp to be a target man for last twenty minutes. Put in a shift.
Alberto Moreno- NA: Very late sub, didn’t make any mistakes.
A superhuman first-half display by rampant Liverpool earned a brilliant 3-0 victory against shell-shocked Manchester City to make them strong favourites to proceed in the Champions League quarter-finals.
The rampant Premier League leaders – just like in January’s solitary top-flight defeat – wilted at Anfield. Egypt forward Mohamed Salah slotted in a 12th-minute opener after a defensive shambles, England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain lashed in from 25 yards soon after and Senegal forward Sadio Mane headed in to round off the scoring just past the half-hour mark.
This result leaves City with a mountain to climb in next week’s decider.
NO PEP FROM GUARDIOLA
It feels sacrilegious to chastise a tactical genius like Pep Guardiola. Yet the Spaniard got it wrong at Anfield. Potentially terminally.
On Wednesday night, his new 4-2-3-1 formation was unfit for purpose. Strangely, he chose to line-up with Ilkay Gundogan, Fernandinho, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne for the first time since an uncharacteristically poor first-half display was put in during February’s eventual 3-0 victory against Arsenal in the League Cup final.
Gundogan was a spare part that Liverpool preyed upon. He did nothing in his pocket out on the right, also being chopped through by the brilliant James Milner in the build-up to Liverpool’s second.
Terminal problems in possession also hamstrung them at the back. Neither Vincent Kompany or Nicolas Otamendi were comfortable enough to pass beyond the choking press.
Oddest of all, only former Liverpool villain Raheem Sterling was called from the substitutes’ bench despite the disaster unfolding.
That this was City’s first match without a shot on target in 18 months points further to an extreme tactical failure.
It is not like Guardiola went in blind. He boldly predicted before the game: “I know the way we play is perfect for Liverpool.”
He can’t say there was no warning.
SANE HAS A SHOCKER
Germany winger Leroy Sane wasn’t alone among the disappointing men in light blue.
England right-back Kyle Walker committed at least two defensive mistakes for the opener, Gundogan looked lost and even Belgium orchestrator De Bruyne put in just one key pass.
But Sane’s awful performance was the most jarring.
With dewy-eyed Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold badly exposed by Manchester United last month, Guardiola decided to pick at this apparent weakness.
Sane, admittedly not helped by unadventurous auxiliary left-back Aymeric Laporte, hamstrung this plan with a rare off night in a fine season that had previously delivered 13 goals in 41 games. In total, 49 per cent of their play went down that side – with nothing to show for it.
He turned an attacking corner into Mohamed Salah’s 12th-minute opener with an idiotic pass in centre midfield, had two off-target shots, no accurate crosses, no key passes and strayed clumsily offside when Gabriel Jesus put the ball in the net late on.
Only five days before, Sane had scored a fine goal across Stanley Park at Everton. A repeat was not on the cards.
NOT EVERYTHING IS FOR SALE
The adage goes that you can’t buy experience.
For all the transformative power of City Football Group’s revolutionary £1 billion+ (Dh5.2bn) investment since 2008, this match bore out the phrase.
None of the starting players at Anfield have won the Champions League.
The club have only made the quarter-finals of the competition once before. Paris Saint-Germain were their victims in 2015/16.
City have now lost 16 of their last 22 meetings at the home of the Reds. Their previous victory came a generation ago in May 2003 when current striker Gabriel Jesus was just five-years-old.
The influence of the fabled ‘Anfield Roar’ is up for debate. What cannot be questioned is how this current City bunch shrunk on Wednesday night.
Would more seasoned heads have prevailed? This is an issue that will come into greater focus if, somehow, they roar through at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.
On ability alone, there is no disparity to likely semi-final qualifiers Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
A vast chasm exists in mentality.
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