Liverpool showed their European pedigree at Anfield on Wednesday night, outclassing and defeating a surprisingly lacklustre Manchester City 3-0 with Mohamed Salah and co. In full throttle.
Jurgen Klopp started with his usual attacking trio of Mo Salah, Saido Mane and Roberto Firmino, while Oxlade-Chamberlain was drafted into midfield with pressing duties in mind. Pep Guardiola turned to a three-man defence of Kompany, Otamendi and Laporte to contain Liverpool’s attacking juggernauts, while Gabriel Jesus started in attack in place of injured Sergio Aguero.
In a breathless opening to the game, Man City created the first opening when Leroy Sane slalomed past three Liverpool defenders but his low shot was deflected into the side netting for a corner which came to nothing. Pep Guardiola’s side were hugging 73% of possession but conceded from a classic counter attack through on-form Mo Salah.
The former Roma winger sprang City’s high offside trap and found Firmino whose shot was well saved by Ederson. Kyle Walker failed to clear the loose ball and Salah stole in to put Liverpool ahead with his 38th goal of the season.
Manchester City continued to dominate possession but got stung again on 20 minutes. Just like he did in their last encounter, English midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain controlled James Milner’s pass in acres of space 25 yards out and struck the ball sweetly into the top corner past a helpless Ederson to send the Anfield crowd into frenzy.
Liverpool laid siege on City’s goal and got a third goal 11 minutes later through Saido Mane’s smart header.
Mo Salah saw his initial shot blocked by Kompany but the ball fell kindly back to him and he sent a chipped cross into the box. The Senegalese forward lept bravely between two defenders to meet the cross and extend Liverpool’s lead to 3-0 with Guardiola in disbelief.
City regained their composure but hardly threatened Van Dijk and co. in Liverpool’s defence as the Anfield side- used to great European nights in this stadium- saw out the half comfortably without a shot on target for City.
The pace reduced in the second half and Salah went off injured following a groin complaint, while City brought on Raheem Sterling to try and grab a precious away goal. The Citizens had the ball in the net late on but Sane was flagged offside- albeit wrongly- as he crossed to Gabriel Jesus to score. That proved to be their best “chance” of the night as Pep’s expensively assembled team did not manage a shot on target. The win puts Klopp’s men in good position to make the semi finals, barring any capitulation in the second leg at the Etihad stadium next week.
Similarly, Barcelona made home advantage count as they defeated Roma 4-1 at the Camp Nou stadium in Spain. Valverde started with an unusual set-up, benching Ousmane Dembele and loading the right side with marauding wing backs Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto, while Sergio Busquets recovered from injury to anchor the midfield.
The home side took lead through an own goal from Roma captain Daniele de Rossi. Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta tried to exchange passes but the veteran Italian’s desperate interception in stopping the return pass to Messi ended at the back of the net from 16 yards out to earn Barca their fourth own goal of this season’s competition.
The fifth own goal was needed to double the Catalans’ lead on 55 minutes. Samuel Umtiti hit the post from close range but the rebound hit an unfortunate Kostas Manolas into the empty net. Gerard Pique added the third on 59 minutes, tapping into an empty net after ‘keeper Alisson Becker had saved a Luis Suarez shot.
Roma upped their game despite the three-goal deficit, forcing ter Stegen into good saves and got an away goal on 80 minutes through striker Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian striker slammed into the net after Perotti’s low cross ran through to him.
Luis Suarez, however, restored Los Cules three goal cushion with his first Champions League goal in over a year. The Uruguayan slammed home from 14 yards from Denis Suarez’s cross.
LIVERPOOL 3-0 MANCHESTER CITY
BARCELONA 4-1 AS ROMA