UCL: LIVERPOOL PROGRESS 5-1 (AGG) VS MANCITY

Mancity had a mountain to climb after that wretched 1st leg in Anfield and they failed miserably in pulling off the great escape last night as Jurgen Klopps men did the business over them. Again.

Pep Guardiola’s great gamble, starting this second leg with seven forwards on the field, was busted 11 minutes into the second half.

That was when Salah stirred, tidying up this electrifying tie by lifting his left-footed effort beyond the reach of Ederson.

He celebrated, arms outstretched in front of Liverpool’s celebrating fans, for what felt like forever.

Salah, dot on the card to be named PFA players’ player of the year, can make time stand still.

When Firmino scored after 77 minutes, haring down the left before beating Ederson with ease, this turned into a humiliating night for Guardiola.

Liverpool are Champions League semi-finalists again, preparing for a straight shootout with some of the biggest clubs in European football later this month.

They have won the trophy five times and are just three games from a sixth under Jurgen Klopp. Incredible.

Just like the first leg, when Salah scored 12 minutes into a mesmerising tie at Anfield, he soothed the nerves of everybody in red.

He scored Liverpool’s first here, a memorable equaliser after Manchester City had tried pretty much everything to try to claw these three goals back.

They had taken the lead, dreaming of a glorious comeback when Gabriel Jesus put them ahead just two minutes into this second leg.

They played at breakneck speed, risking men from the off by throwing them forward in search of the opener.

The rewards were immediate.

City went ahead, in a belting move finished by Jesus, after just 116 seconds.

Beyond that they need two, three and then, improbably, a fourth to see them through to the semi-final.

The will was there and was so was the running: the chasing, the harrying, the hassling that any team three down from a first leg mauling needed.

City were on it from the get-go.

Sterling set the tone, barging Virgil van Dijk off the ball at the start of the move that led to City’s goal less than two minutes into the tie.

Fernandinho was hovering, setting Sterling scampering down the right before finding Jesus inside the penalty area.

The finish was sweet and emphatic, giving Liverpool the woolies on a night when City had to find three or more.

For a time they looked like they were on for it.

The atmosphere was unreal, the sort of melting pot Manchester City’s manager demanded in the minutes ahead of kick-off at the Etihad.

It was a spell-binding night.

Guardiola watched the second half from the seats in the chairman’s lounge, sent to the stands for giving Spanish referee Antonio Lopez a mouthful.

They have previous, stretching back to last season’s Champions League clash here against Monaco last season.

He had a point because the Spanish ref incorrectly ruled out Leroy Sane’s goal for offside when the ball into him clearly came off the boot of Liverpool midfielder James Milner.

By then the place was bedlam.

Bernardo Silva, with those lovely cushioned touches out on the right, was sensational in the first 45.

He deserved a goal, especially when another one of his dreamy touches pinged off his left boot and off the post of Loris Karius 41 minutes in.

The whole place was rooting for it to draw its way back towards the inside of the Liverpool’s keeper’s woodwork.

It was breathless stuff, stirring the emotions on a night when Liverpool were stretched to the limit in that first half.

Pep, tortured by their 3-0 defeat at Anfield and then the implosion against Manchester United on Saturday, had set some different tactics.

He started with seven forwards and pretty much left it to Fernandinho and central defender Nicolas Otamendi to do the dirty work behind them.

The pair of them did their bit in the first half.

They gave City’s forwards, aided by the enthusiasm of their balls boys to get it back in play as quickly as possible, confidence to give this a proper dig.

Liverpool could not handle the first half gameplan, with Sadio Mane, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dejan Lovren and Firmino booked for pre-determined challenges.

Pep got to work on them at the break, with Liverpool feeling their way back into it at the start of the second half.

Salah came to life, with Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane combining to set up the chance for the main man to score.

That was one and soon it was two.

Otamendi, outstanding in the first half, lost his footing when he was under pressure from Firmino.

The Brazilian put the ahead on the night, stretching the aggregate lead and putting this beyond the reach of City.

They have done a job on Pep, hurtling towards the semi-final with another remarkable performance.

After this, they deserve to be there.

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