Liverpool had a 3-0 cushion heading into the second leg at the Etihad stadium against Manchester City. In the worst possible start since Istanbul, it turned out to be a whoopy cushion as the air escaped within a minute and City had a goal, albeit through somewhat fortuitous circumstances. Earlier, as kickoff approached the City faithful had begun creating their famous atmosphere, consisting mainly of what resembled blue colored toilet paper, some plastic flags borrowed from Chelsea and sprayed a lighter shade of blue. The traveling Liverpool fans just laughed and laughed. City then tried to intimidate the vociferous away supporters by playing a song, er, famously sung by a legendary group from Liverpool. Needless to say, it didn’t work either.The traveling Kop laughed even more.
But the jolly haha’s came to an abrupt halt as Gabriel Jesus scored within the 1st minute of the game. Raheem “Handbags” Sterling had managed to foul the giant Virgil Van Dijk and somehow managed to get away with it. Even stranger was that this little sheesh kebab had brought Big Virgil down to the ground. I think that the ref could’t believe that Raheem could possibly have dropped the Dutchman, and that Van Dijk had gone down too easily. Sterling was on his way in a flash, his limp wrists flayed about frantically as he motored into the acres of vacant space, setting up Jesus for the easiest of chances. Game well and truly on.
What followed was 44 minutes of a sheer terror. Wave after wave, City were relentless in their onslaught. Liverpool looked stunned into (almost) non action, players literally chasing shadows as David Silva, Leroy Sane and Kevin “Ginger Gerrard” de Bruyne kept swinging the axe against a wilting Red err tree.
Fans across the world gasped in true horror as shots went close, one hit the woodwork and a goal was ruled offside. But through the chaos of that 1st half, one man stood calm:
Jurgen Norbert Klopp. He had a plan, and Martin Tyler had no idea.
The pressing game was nowhere to be seen. Odd.
Gini Wijnaldum, in the Ghost role again, was almost a non entity in the centre of the park( excuse the pun )
But they hung on for dear life till the interval. Such was the nature of this game that even half time had some drama. Pep Guardiola ran onto the field to pull his players away from the referee, and somehow got triggered and started shhhhh’ing the referee. The referee was only too happy to send him to the stands.
I remember Andy Gray back in 2005 commenting on Istanbul : “It was a game of two halves” – Those words were about to ring true a second time.
The longer that City toiled to get the second goal, the more the pressure grew and the more bodies were thrown forward.
Leroy Sane’s runs began getting slower, Silva started to tire and De Bruyne started hitting shots from too far out.
And then BOOM! Klopp hit the red button.
Suddenly Liverpool players had life in their legs, and the press started to make a welcomed appearance.
Roberto Firmino chases down De Bruyne, wins the ball back and next thing you know Sadio Mane is cutting across defenders in the box but fails to finish.
Sighs of disappointment are not even exhaled fully when THAT MAN MOHAMED SALAH arrives out of nowhere to coolly chip Ederson and effectively finish the game off.
He stands with arms stretched wide, eyes fixated on the screaming travelers. A blue flare is thrown but misses Salah by far. Ironic too that city fans, not unlike their team, had missed the target again.
Twenty minutes later Otamendi makes a mistake and Firmino is through on goal and well, there was never any doubt on the outcome. He slots it pass a hapless Ederson, (the Brazilian stopper still looking tired after having used up all his energy pushing Sadio Mane for what felt like hours earlier)
Firmino’s celebration, a simple wave to the fans, also waved Pep’s boys out of the competition.
Coutinho must be kicking himself, Sterling, well, got kicked by Virgil.
Reds will add them all to the Michael Owen whatsapp group if they make it all the way to Kiev, and win it.
Once again, Klopp defeats Pep.
Pedigree defeats paid, agree ?
The semi final awaits & Liverpool fear no one.
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