The thunderstorm came just as Jurgen Klopp had predicted, a torrent of pressure from Manchester City that must have felt overwhelming at times, but when it was all over there was the proverbial golden sky of Anfield lore, and for the third time this season, Liverpool had done it.That is to say they had beaten the team once considered unbeatable to claim a place in the Champions League semi-finals, having first kept their heads while Pep Guardiola’s team unleashed hell upon them for the first 45 minutes.
City played every moment of that first half as if it was the last minute of the last game of football of their lives and somehow, with heroic defending, and a little fortune, Liverpool were still in a position to win the game, and the tie after the break.When did the weather change? It might have been when Guardiola was sent off at half-time for telling the Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz that he had been wrong about the decision to disallow what would have been City’s second goal on the night, from Leroy Sane.
Guardiola was right in that respect, it should have stood, but perhaps wrong to challenge a Spanish referee whom he knows brooks no dissent. Sent to the stand in the second half, City had lost their forceful touchline presence, although that was only part of the reason they faltered.They had scored after just two minutes, Gabriel Jesus finishing a move of ruthless precision and, from then, City’s intensity was such that it was all Liverpool could do to keep the door closed against the gathering storm. It came down their right predominantly, where Sane and David Silva outnumbered Trent Alexander-Arnold and the ball was whipped into the area, where Liverpool were obliged to take their chances.
At the time it felt the goals were inevitable but while City, and Kevin De Bruyne, were masterful in getting the ball out to that left wing, they could never quite dominate the Liverpool box in the same way – where Virgil van Dijk and Dejan Lovren were outstanding. Perhaps if that Sane goal had been allowed to stand before half-time, it might have been a different English team in the semi-finals, but once Liverpool reached the break, the game was never the same again.Klopp has taken Liverpool to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2008 in only his second full season at a club which is only the ninth-richest in Europe. He may yet draw the conquerors of Barcelona, the Serie A team Roma, who, so far, are the great trespassers in this game of the wealthy. Yet the Liverpool manager’s achievement is also extraordinary when one considers they sold arguably the club’s best player, Philippe Coutinho, in January and have just about broken even in spending since Klopp’s arrival in late 2015.