It's Liverpool v London in FA Cup final - key talking points as Reds beat Man City
FA Cup semi-final:
Manchester City (0) 2 Grealish 47, Silva 90
Liverpool (3) 3 Konate 9, Mane 17, Mane 45
Paul Lagan's match report here
So it’s Liverpool v Crystal Palace or Chelsea in the final. The Reds were simply too strong for a jaded-looking Man City and although Pep’s men rallied well after going 3-0 down, Jurgen Klopp’s side held on.
Here we look at the talking points from another captivating battle between two of the great teams currently plying their trade.
Pep’s defensive gamble backfires
After their draining Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid, it was understandable that Pep Guardiola would want to freshen up his Man City team. But leaving out Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and Rodri looked a calamitous idea 20 minutes in – even before we factor in the change of goalkeeper. Zack Steffen’s awful error handed Sadio Mane the second goal after Ibrahima Konate had been given a near-free header at a corner for the opener. City could do little about the knocks picked up in Spain by Kyle Walker and Kevin de Bruyne (who started on the bench) but this still felt like handing too much initiative to the Reds. Maybe that midweek drama had spooked Pep too much.
Liverpool’s easier midweek translates into superior energy levels
They set a stronger, faster tempo from the off. Jurgen Klopp’s men had a noticeable spring in their step. Qualification for the Champions League semi-final has given them renewed momentum. While City were struggling through an emotionally-charged examination at the Wanda Metropolitano, Liverpool were enjoying the home comforts of a relatively stress-free evening against Benfica. They looked sharper and had the extra energy levels to blow City away in a one-sided first half which effectively booked them a place in a second domestic cup final of the season at Wembley. Their high press often made City look uncomfortable.
Not too much tension in the ‘friendly rivalry’
There was one flashpoint in the game, when Fernandinho sent Sadio Mane flying with a lunging trip on the Liverpool striker. Briefly, the players squared up in a melee as Konate rushed in to say his piece. But this was hardly Keane v Vieira. For the most part, the players again mirrored the cool respect the two managers have for each other and for the opposing club. Much has been made of the fact a clash between these teams does not set pulses racing in the way some previous top-flight rivalries have done, but there is no obligation for teams to hate each other in the battle for supremacy. Liverpool’s three goal cushion did much to diffuse tension, although had Jesus managed to convert a great chance that Alisson saved in the second half, it might have been a much tighter affair. As it was the second City goal came just too late to change things.
Will there be a fourth instalment?
The Premier League’s heavyweights slugged out a great contest at the Etihad a week ago – a match which ended 2-2, like the first encounter between the sides at Anfield. This one was always going to do well to match the drama and excellence of seven days ago and for once, one of the teams gained a clear upper hand, even allowing for the late City rally which almost forced a very unlikely draw. It was reminiscent of the time Liverpool blew City away on the first leg of a Champions League clash a few years ago. The Reds had a day to remember but cannot be guaranteed to have the last laugh, of course. They remain one tantalising point behind their title rivals and there could yet be another showdown in May in the Champions League final in Paris. The two have been kept apart in next week’s Euro semi-finals.
Tough day ahead for one of London’s clubs
Liverpool have never won the FA Cup under Klopp - or since 2006 - but they have an unmistakable taste for this year’s competition as they battle for honours on three fronts, having already bagged the League Cup. They will probably start as favourites in the final on May 15 final, whether it is against Crystal Palace or Chelsea, the team they beat in the League Cup final on penalties. The Reds have a winning habit and a sense of destiny. That said, cup finals never seem to respect form, and the trophy may yet be kept in the capital.