Mohamed Salah the hero as Liverpool knock Man City out of Europe
MANCHESTER, England -- Three points on a remarkable night at the Etihad as Liverpool won 2-1 (5-1 on aggregate) in the Champions League quarterfinal second leg.
1. City crash to third defeat in six days as Liverpool reach the semifinals
Liverpool booked their first Champions League semifinal in 10 years as Pep Guardiola's selection gamble backfired with Manchester City going down to their third defeat in six days.
Second-half goals by Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino cancelled out Gabriel Jesus' second-minute opener to seal a comfortable 5-1 aggregate victory for the five-time European champions. But the final score does little to reflect a tumultuous quarterfinal second leg at the Etihad, with City subjecting Liverpool to a first-half onslaught that should have been rewarded with a second goal when Leroy Sane's goal was wrongly ruled out for offside on 43 minutes, just moments after a Bernardo Silva shot hit the post.
The decision of Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz to rule out Sane's goal prompted a furious reaction by City manager Guardiola, who was sent to the stands for his protests. It was a bad moment on a bad night for Guardiola, who had surprised many by naming top scorer Sergio Aguero on the bench for a game City needed to score at least three goals to save the tie. By the time Aguero entered the fray on 66 minutes, the tie was as good as over following Salah's equaliser nine minutes earlier.
But Liverpool's victory has left City with a sense of deflation just weeks after being billed as the greatest team in Premier League history. The quadruple has become a double, which is still some achievement, but City have once again fallen short in the Champions League despite having Guardiola in charge.
Liverpool, meanwhile, march on as they attempt to win a sixth European Cup next month.
2. Salah can be Liverpool's Messi or Ronaldo
Recent years have shown that you need a goal-scoring superstar to win the Champions League and they are usually called Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. Only Chelsea in 2012 and Bayern Munich in 2013 have kept the European Cup out of Real Madrid's or Barcelona's hands in the Champions League this decade, and the success of the Spanish giants has largely been down to Messi and Ronaldo.
But in Salah, Liverpool may just possess a player capable of delivering the Champions League with his scoring ability. The Egypt international, who opened the scoring in last week's 3-0 first-leg win, scored the crucial equaliser at the Etihad to take his tally for the season to 39 in all competitions. Salah seems capable of turning even the slightest opportunity into a scoring chance, and at this level the ability to do that can be priceless.
Whoever Liverpool face in the semifinals, they will face an almighty battle to reach the final in Kiev. But Salah gives them a chance no matter who they come up against, especially when his talents are supported by the underrated Firmino and Sadio Mane.
3. Are Man City tiring themselves out with first-half onslaughts?
Manchester City were unstoppable during the first half of Tuesday's game, with their incessant energy and work rate forcing Liverpool deeper and deeper into their own half. Having taken the lead inside two minutes through Jesus, the onslaught that followed was supplemented by a team of ball boys who returned the ball at such speed that Liverpool were denied even a second to catch their breath.
It was a similar story against Manchester United at the weekend, when City's 2-0 half-time lead could quite easily have been four or five. But as they did against United on Saturday, City threw everything into the opening 45 minutes and were then unable to sustain their incredible pace after the break.
United caught them cold with three second-half goals to win 3-2, while Liverpool bounced back from the ropes to equalise on the night and virtually kill the tie overall through Salah on 57 minutes.
City were wrongly denied a second goal shortly before half-time when Sane was incorrectly ruled offside, and that goal may have been a turning point had it stood. But City's failure to kill the game in the first half meant they were writing cheques they couldn't cash after the interval and Liverpool did to them what United did at the weekend.
City simply put too much into the opening 45 minutes and didn't hold anything in reserve for the second half which, ultimately, is poor game management. Games cannot always be won before half-time and when they aren't, City need to have something left in the tank.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_