Liverpool booked their place in the FA Cup final after running out 3-2 winners against Manchester City at Wembley this afternoon.
Both clubs are eyeing major silverware this season with Jurgen Klopp’s men having already bagged the EFL Cup earlier this year. With a point separating them in the Premier League title race, and Champions League semi-final dates with Villarreal and Real Madrid respectively coming up, it means a quadruple, treble or double is on the cards for either but there was always going to be one winner today.
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Matches between English football’s two best sides have been close of late, for a while this latest meeting at the home of English football was going to buck a recent trend, but after racing into a 3-0 half-time lead the full-time result turned out to be more respectable.
Naturally there were changes on either side but Liverpool’s starting eleven was more representative of them at full strength. It proved decisive as Man City’s reserve goalkeeper Zack Steffen endured the worst opening 45 minutes of his career.
Each goal conceded theoretically could have been avoided, certainly the second, Liverpool’s opener came from a now familiar source. Ibrahima Konate nodded home a ninth minute Andrew Robertson corner. It was the 19th time this season the Reds have scored via this means. Then came the moment which Steffen would have wanted the ground to open up and swallow him whole.
Having watched Ederson a few days earlier allowing the ball to run on towards the goal-line before casually passing it away as Diogo Jota lunged to intercept. Steffen wasn’t able to create a mirror image as Sadio Mane successfully charged him down to double Liverpool’s lead.
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Guardiola had described his first choice as “crazy” while praising Ederson’s importance. It also conjured memories of Victor Valdes misplaced pass that led to Real Madrid scoring in the Clásico over a decade ago. A different scenario, but the Barcelona goalkeeper on that evening continued to play the way his manager decrees much to Guardiola’s delight.
That philosophy hasn’t changed and to Steffen’s credit he did not allow this incident, which Guardiola has since described as an “accident”, to affect him but he couldn’t keep out Mane’s stunning volley which ultimately sealed the contest.
City, as you expect from any championship-calibre side, rallied after half-time with Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva putting some respectability on the scoresheet, but it could have been more if not for the presence of Alisson which goes to show the difference of having a world-class ‘keeper between the posts something Alan Shearer was quick to point out.
“That is a very, very good save,” he said while covering the game for BBC when analysing a Gabriel Jesus chance in the second half.
“The reason Liverpool trust their high line is because if their opponent gets through it, they’ve got a top-class goalkeeper to beat.
“Yes it’s risky, but they do it because of him and also because VAR will give fine offside decisions. But he’s a world-class goalkeeper, the number of saves he makes.”
Chasing an improbable quadruple Liverpool will now face either Chelsea or Crystal Palace in the 2022 FA Cup final at Wembley on May 14.