Liverpool’s European love affair goes on

There’s something about Liverpool and Europe that seems to go together.

The five-times European Cup winners haven’t looked anywhere near like winning the Premier League but here they are again in the semi-finals and two games away from yet another final.

And who would bet against them with Manchester City and Barcelona crashing out in the last eight.

Dumped out of the FA Cup at home by bottom-of-the-table West Brom, and 17 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League table, but somehow they managed to cajole a victory over a side that has completed dominated in England this season.

If they are to make all to Kiev, it’s harder to think that they’ll have a more difficult night than in the opening 45 minutes at the Etihad Stadium, when at times, they were straining every sinew just to keep themselves alive in the tie.

“I would rather have a general who was lucky than one who was good,” Napoleon Bonaparte once said, which is why the Frenchman would probably want Jurgen Klopp on his side.

Glory depends on small margins and Liverpool more than rode their fortune to make through to the Champions League semifinals after being battered and bullied in a brilliant first half from City.

Klopp agitatedly patrolled his technical area in the opening 45 minutes unable to stop City’s complete and utter dominance.

They were ahead through Gabriel Jesus’s second-minute strike and they should have had a second on the stroke of half-time after when Leroy Sane’s goal was incredulously ruled out for offside.

The ball rebounded to goal off James Milner but it was missed by three officials barely 10 yards away from the incident.

There were marginal decisions in the first leg — over the opener and a Leroy Sane goal ruled out — but this was a bizarre call.

At that point, the momentum was all with City and a 2-0 half-time lead would see them almost become favourite to go through with Liverpool having no answers to City’s dominance.

Guardiola was wildly brave in his selection and it almost paid dividends with an unlikely comeback.

Trailing 3-0 from the first leg it looked like mission impossible. Guardiola, arguably the best coach in the game, wasn’t going to give up.

He got his badly tactics wrong in the first leg at Anfield seven days earlier when he added an extra midfielder at the expense of a forward and it backfired.

It would have been easy for the Manchester City to revert the 4-3-3 system that has served his side so well in their romp to the top of the Premier League.

But the Spaniard was prepared to gamble again. This time he added another midfielder at the expense of a defender.

With Liverpool’s attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, it’s hard to think of another coach in world football that would go with such an ambitious formation.

It put huge pressure on a back-three of Nicolas Otamendi, Aymeric Laporte, and Kyle Walker — a defence that has conceded six goals in the last two matches, including that remarkable comeback from Man United in the Manchester derby.

One mistake, one misjudgement, one perfect pass and Liverpool would have that crucial away goal that would kill off City’s hopes.

What made the gamble even more surprising is that it came against a Jurgen Klopp team. The Liverpool is seemingly the only manager in world football who is capable of besting Guardiola on a regular basis.

City had the perfect start when Gabriel Jesus turned in Raheem Sterling’s ball inside two minutes and Liverpool were rocking.

Guardiola committed men forward and it resulted in the game being played in the space between the edge of Liverpool’s box and the halfway line, with Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva offering as much width as possible to create the space.

Klopp moved bodies left and right to try to stop City dominating possession — including drafting Firmino and Mane back to the edge of the area.

Had that Sane goal stood, it would have been difficult to see them stopping City moving forward.

Guardiola was so incensed that he marched onto the pitch to scream furiously at the referee and was promptly sent off. City seemed to lose something without the Catalan on the sideline and Liverpool made them pay. Salah had his one chance and took before Firmino made sure.

Liverpool are rolling back the years and it would be a brave men that would bet against them.


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