Salah the star as Liverpool stun Man City on memorable Anfield night
LIVERPOOL, England — Three thoughts from Liverpool’s stunning 3-0 victory over Manchester City in their Champions League quarterfinal, first leg.
1. Believe the hype: Anfield makes a difference on European nights
We have all heard the hype about Anfield being a special place on European nights, with its atmosphere lifting Liverpool to incredible heights. It has happened too often for it to be a hollow clichA�, but those who mock fail to understand the real effect of the cauldron that the stadium becomes. Those of a Manchester City persuasion might think again the next time that they dismiss the Anfield experience as nothing more than a media invention, having being overrun in a 3-0 mauling in this Champions League quarterfinal, first leg.
In the first half, City were steamrollered by a Liverpool team clearly fired up by the colour and noise rolling down from the Anfield stands. Did the atmosphere intimidate Pep Guardiola’s players? Probably not, but what it did do was inject Jurgen Klopp’s men with levels of energy that enabled them to win every first and second ball. They chased down City’s rattled defenders, harassed the overworked Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan in midfield and each tackle and interception was met by a wall of noise.
The Anfield atmosphere has contributed to famous European wins against Saint-Etienne, Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund and many others down the years and City simply became the latest victim.
The pre-match scenes, when the City team bus was hit by objects and missiles on its way to Anfield, were the kind that should not accompany any football match, but Guardiola knows his players are too experienced for that to have knocked them off their stride.
City weren’t rolled over by the Anfield atmosphere, but Liverpool used it to drive them on. Wednesday night’s 3-0 victory, following goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane, now gives them a huge chance to reach their first Champions League semifinal since 2008.
2. Man City’s big players go missing
It has been easy to heap praise on Manchester City this season, with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Leroy Sane all producing outstanding performances in the Premier League. But the time for big players to deliver is when the pressure is at its most intense and none of City’s star performers turned up against Liverpool at Anfield.
Perhaps they have had it too easy in the league, with far too many opponents proving too frightened to take City on. Even Manchester United gave City an easy ride at Old Trafford earlier this season, with the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal also surrendering before a ball has been kicked.
But City should have known what to expect at Anfield having suffered a 4-3 defeat here in January. They knew how fired up and tenacious Liverpool would be in this game, but none of Guardiola’s players lived up to their hype in the heat of battle.
There have been countless claims that this City team is the best the Premier League has ever seen, but those suggestions are premature. Guardiola has built a formidable team, but greatness is measured by achievements at the highest level against the very best opponents and City’s big men fell short.
They have a big job to do next week to prove that this was just an off-night.
3. Will Salah be fit for the second leg?
It seems there is no stopping Salah, but Man City will be desperately hoping the injury that forced the Liverpool forward to limp out of this game prevents him from playing in next Tuesday’s second leg at the Etihad Stadium.
By the time Salah left the action after 52 minutes, Liverpool were 3-0 up thanks in no small part to the Egypt international’s first-half contribution. He scored the opener on 12 minutes and then provided the cross for Sadio Mane to head in Liverpool’s third 19 minutes later, delivering when it mattered for Klopp’s team.
The former Chelsea and Roma winger has been in sensational form this season, but his recent run of goals has arguably placed him ahead of City’s Kevin De Bruyne in the running for the Footballer of the Year awards. Since the turn of the year, Salah has scored 15 goals in all competitions and his fitness will be crucial to Liverpool’s hopes of winning the Champions League.
With only six days until the return game in Manchester, how feasible is it for Salah to shake off what appeared to be a groin muscle strain in order to play against City next week?
Liverpool will do everything they can to get Salah on the pitch at the Etihad because they will be subjected to an onslaught next week and will need their star man fit and firing.