Categories
football Slides Sports News

MANCHESTER CITY TO MAKE MORE SIGNINGS

Manchester City are planning to make more signings this summer, chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak has revealed.

The Premier League champions have already secured a deal for the much-coveted Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland and their attack will be further boosted by the arrival of Argentina international Julian Alvarez.

Yet that is unlikely to be the end of the transfer activity ahead of next season with manager Pep Guardiola also looking for additions in other areas.

Speaking in his annual end-of-season interview with the club’s website, Khaldoon said: “I can confirm that there will be more players coming in.

“We are looking to strengthen the team in the areas that we need strengthening, and every season some players leave and we have to continually refresh the team.

“I think we’ve made two very important additions already but I anticipate we will be doing a couple more.”

Of the business done so far, Khaldoon is convinced City have pulled off a coup in securing the services of Haaland.

The prolific 21-year-old will move to the Etihad Stadium for £51million after City saw off interest from other clubs.

Khaldoon said: “We have, in Haaland, arguably the best number nine in the world at the right age.

“When you look at the next 10-15 years we have invested, in Haaland, in that striker for the future.

“He is a very, very unique, incredibly talented striker that I think the whole world has been looking at. I would say every big team in the world wanted Haaland to join and we are absolutely delighted Haaland chose to join Manchester City.

“For us, it’s a super decision. We are getting, truly, a phenomenal player. He will fit very nicely with the group.”

Next season will be Guardiola’s seventh at City and the last of his current contract.

There has been speculation about the inspirational Spaniard’s future but, after negotiating extensions with him in his final year twice previously, Khaldoon does not see it as a matter of concern.

He said: “It is a partnership that has done wonders over the years. It is approaching its seventh year and next year is going to be an exciting chapter of this partnership, and we’re enjoying every moment of it.

“We’re achieving great things together and this conversation will be had at the right time, at the right pace, and with the pace, time and framework that works for Pep.”

Khaldoon added that Guardiola is not under any additional pressure to win the Champions League, which is the one major trophy that has eluded him at City.

He said: “You don’t need to put any extra pressure on Pep, he puts enough pressure on himself. It is the exact opposite – I try to bring back the pressure because I think he puts too much pressure on himself.

“The pressure is not of winning this competition or that competition. We approach every season to win and to try to win every competition we compete in.”

City secured their fourth Premier League title in five seasons this month but “within hours” thoughts turned to next term.

“Our mindset, while celebratory, immediately flips to the future and how to keep strengthening,” Khaldoon said.

Categories
football Sports News

WIN NOT ENOUGH TO MAINTAIN LIVERPOOL’S QUEST FOR A QUADRUPLE

Liverpool’s hopes of a dramatic last-day Premier League title win were dashed by Manchester City’s remarkable second-half comeback, with the 3-1 home win over Wolves not enough to maintain their quest for an unprecedented quadruple.

For a long period, with their rivals losing at home to Aston Villa, belief coursed around the ground but the dream was extinguished in the space of six minutes in which Pep Guardiola’s men turned things around.

It meant the Reds finished second by a point, with a 92-point tally which would have been good enough to win the title in 25 of the previous 30 seasons.

The last time a team failed to win the top-flight title after leading the table on the final day was Liverpool themselves in 1989 when they lost 2-0 at home to Arsenal.

But this time their destiny was out of their hands as it needed Villa, managed by former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, to pull off the unexpected and get something at the Etihad Stadium.

For 75 minutes it looked like they might just do that and with Sadio Mane’s 11th league goal at Anfield cancelling out Pedro Neto’s surprise opener there was a feeling that something special was happening.

But by the time Mohamed Salah had put his side 2-1 up with his 23rd league goal – to share the Golden Boot with Tottenham’s Son Heung-min, City were ahead.

That required something special from Villa late on but the next goal came at Anfield where Andy Robertson stabbed home in the 89th minute.

The match began and ended in a feeling of deflation but the consolation for Liverpool and their fans is they have a Champions League final against Real Madrid on Saturday to complete a cup treble.

Neto’s goal was most definitely not in the script but highlighted chinks in Liverpool’s defence which had seen them concede the first goal in five of their last six matches.

What was more annoying from the hosts’ point of view was the simplicity of the goal: Ibrahima Konate misjudged a Jose Sa kick and Raul Jimenez raced clear to square for Neto to become only the third opposition player to score a league goal at Anfield in 2022.

What was uncharacteristic, however, was Liverpool’s lack of sharpness up front.

Luis Diaz took the ball too close to Sa having been played in by Joel Matip, with the Colombia international’s next attack seeing his cross fly through the six-yard box with no team-mate close.

With so much at stake it could have been a nervy, cagey affair but it had the feel of a cup tie with both sides having chances as Leander Dendoncker fired from a breakaway before Neto was forced off injured.

A moment of genius lifted the rood off Anfield in the 24th minute when Thiago Alcantara, the dominant player in possession, produced a brilliant back-heeled pass for Mane to run through and score for the fourth successive final day, the first Liverpool player to do since since Ronald Orr in 1911.

Just before half-time came news of Villa’s goal at City and the ground went giddy with delight but on the pitch captain Jordan Henderson could be seen telling his team-mates to calm things down.

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker was the coolest of them all in saving substitute Hwang Hee-Chan’s near-post shot but the loss of Thiago to injury just before half-time was a significant blow.

However, other players started to energise and Mane – and the majority of Anfield – thought he had scored with a cheeky dink over Sa early in the second half only for a late offside flag to dampen the celebrations.

Salah, introduced in the 58th minute having recovered from a minor groin problem after last week’s FA Cup final victory, lobbed over with the outside of his left-foot from a tight angle as Liverpool kept probing.

The Egypt international then delayed his shot having capitalised on Willy Boly’s slip and the defender produced a brilliant recovery to dispossess the forward.

Moments later another roar went around the ground as former Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho doubled Villa’s lead at City, with Jurgen Klopp putting a fourth forward on the pitch when he replaced Naby Keita with Roberto Firmino.

The tension was starting to become unbearable as Alisson tipped over a Hwang shot to provide a reminder there could be no gung-ho approach – and then City scored. Three times in six minutes.

Every goal from the Etihad was cheered by the visiting supporters, revelling in their misfortune of their Midlands rivals, who chanted “You nearly won the league” as the mood switched from frustration to deflation.

There was a brief respite when Salah forced home from close range after Matip’s header was cleared off the line.

With five minutes to go it appeared the rumour mill, fired by wishful thinking, went into overdrive as for a brief moment there was an outpouring of ecstasy for no apparent reason.

Fans were waiting on a goal from elsewhere so Robertson’s strike in the 89th minute goal produced only muted celebrations.

Categories
football Slides Sports News

MANCHESTER CITY STAGE REMARKABLE COMEBACK TO CLINCH PREMIER LEAGUE TITLE

Manchester City staged a sensational comeback from 2-0 down to retain the Premier League title with a dramatic 3-2 win over Aston Villa.

Needing to win to be assured of holding off Liverpool, City were in danger of blowing it as Matty Cash and former Reds star Philippe Coutinho struck at the Etihad Stadium.

Yet Pep Guardiola’s side showed all their champion quality to rally with Ilkay Gundogan coming off the bench to score twice either side of a superb Rodri strike in a remarkable five-minute spell.

City had known that second-placed Liverpool, trailing by just a point, could overtake them with victory over Wolves and there were times in the afternoon when they lived on their nerves.

When they trailed by two, Liverpool were being held 1-1 and news of another goal at Anfield at that stage, could have been a hammer blow.

Yet in remarkable final-day drama, City cast off the shackles of a dismal first-half display to turn the game around and render Liverpool’s eventual win academic.

There were few signs of nerves, or the tension to follow, as the game kicked off amid a joyous and raucous atmosphere.

City supporters had given their team a rousing welcome outside the stadium and there was a feeling celebrations were almost getting under way as news filtered through of an early Wolves goal.

City were boosted by the return of John Stones from injury but, with Kyle Walker fit enough only for the bench, he lined up at right-back.

Fernandinho, making his final City appearance, continued in his role as a makeshift centre-back alongside Aymeric Laporte with Joao Cancelo on the left.

It made for an uncomfortable-looking back four, and so it proved, but it was City who made most of the early running.

Cancelo had a couple of efforts blocked after good runs and Gabriel Jesus almost embarrassed debutant Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen when he charged down a clearance. Phil Foden also rolled a shot narrowly wide after a Kevin De Bruyne counter-attack.

Villa, who were warned about time-wasting early on by referee Michael Oliver, grew into the game and took a shock lead eight minutes before the interval.

Lucas Digne, the former Everton full-back, broke clear down the left and clipped in a fine cross from the byline. Cash, running in from the opposite side, met it with a firm header that Ederson could not keep out.

With Liverpool having now equalised against Wolves, the mood was transformed. City were stunned and suddenly looked vulnerable.

Fernandinho looked particularly shaky as Watkins twice threatened, first having a shot blocked and then being denied by a back-tracking Stones.

The interval came at a good time for City and it was no surprise that Fernandinho did not return for the second half. Oleksandr Zinchenko took his place and the back line was reshaped.

City upped the tempo and Jesus should have equalised when picked out at the back post by Cancelo but volleyed over.

Yet Villa were in stubborn mood and repelled wave after wave of further attacks with captain Tyrone Mings standing tall.

De Bruyne went close with a dipping free-kick but City were caught out by a long clearance upfield by Olsen, which Watkins headed on to Coutinho.

The Brazilian’s first touch was exquisite and completely wrong-footed Laporte, exposing Ederson at the near post. The goal still took some finishing but Coutinho kept his cool and found the bottom corner.

Villa manager Steven Gerrard was more than doing his job for former club Liverpool and this was now a serious test of City’s mettle, but they rallied.

De Bruyne first blasted over before substitutes Raheem Sterling and Gundogan combined to pull one back on 76 minutes. The German had a free header at the back post after being picked out by Sterling and made no mistake.

With their tails now up, City pressed again and moments later levelled as Zinchenko picked out Rodri on the edge of the area and the Spaniard stroked the ball into the bottom corner.

There was more to come with Gundogan again in the right place at the back post as De Bruyne whipped in a good ball.

The comeback was complete and, even though an equaliser from Villa could have changed the picture again, it never looked like happening as City celebrated another league crown.

Categories
football Sports News

FIVE-STAR MANCHESTER CITY POWER THREE POINTS CLEAR OF TITLE RIVALS LIVERPOOL

Manchester City bounced back from their European heartbreak to move a step closer to retaining the Premier League title by thrashing Newcastle 5-0 on Sunday.

Raheem Sterling struck twice while Joao Cancelo, Rodri and Phil Foden were also on target at the Etihad Stadium as City powered three points clear of Liverpool at the top of the table.

The performance and result were an emphatic response after City’s Champions League hopes were shattered by Real Madrid’s dramatic semi-final fightback at the Bernabeu in midweek.

Many had wondered how Pep Guardiola would rouse his squad after that devastating loss but Liverpool’s failure to beat Tottenham on Saturday probably did his job for him.

With a chance to give themselves more breathing space, City looked vibrant from the outset.

Initially Newcastle met their fire with their own in a frantic opening and the visitors should have taken an early lead.

Chris Wood had a glorious opportunity as he was picked out unmarked by Alain Saint-Maximin but he headed tamely at Ederson.

A goal then might have set nerves jangling but City responded well with Aymeric Laporte and Cancelo both going close.

The hosts then claimed the lead in the 19th minute after a fine piece of vision from Ilkay Gundogan.

The German, who brought a calming influence after a hectic start, clipped a fine ball across the box to pick out Cancelo at the far post. Cancelo showed great awareness himself to head back across goal and Sterling dived in to head home.

City had a moment of alarm soon after when Joelinton scrambled the ball into the net following a corner but it was disallowed for offside.

The champions upped the tempo with Gundogan firing wide and Oleksandr Zinchenko almost teeing up Gabriel Jesus.

The second goal came following a corner seven minutes before the break. Martin Dubravka failed to hold Gundogan’s volley from the edge of the area and, although the keeper reacted quickly to deny Ruben Dias on the rebound, he could not prevent Laporte tucking in.

With that City appeared to break the spirit of Newcastle and the home side took firm control of the game with a third just after the hour.

It came from a corner as Rodri found space at the near post to head home Kevin De Bruyne’s cross.

The crowd celebrated what seemed a significant goal in the title race and City appeared hungry for more as Zinchenko forced a fine save from Dubravka.

With the job done, City eased off with their midweek trip to Wolves in mind.

There was little to alarm them until Newcastle belatedly showed some spark in the closing minutes.

Callum Wilson, returning from injury, came off the bench to test Ederson and Saint-Maximin also had a chance.

That only served to fire up City more and Foden made it 4-0 in the last minute before Sterling completed the rout in injury time.

Categories
football Slides Sports News

MANCHESTER CITY CRASH OUT OF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE AFTER DEFEAT TO REAL MADRID

There is disappointment among Manchester City fans, as their team lost the chance of facing Liverpool in the Champions League final.

Boss Pep Guardiola admitted defeat was tough to take, after Real Madrid produced a late fightback in their semi-final second leg at the Bernabeu Stadium on Wednesday 4 May, to win 3-1 on the night and prevail 6-5 on aggregate after extra time.

City had gone 5-3 ahead overall after Riyad Mahrez scored the first goal of the night after 73 minutes but Rodrygo replied with a quickfire double in the closing moments of normal time.

Karim Benzema then settled a compelling tie with his third goal of it, from the penalty spot, in the fifth minute of extra time.

The result sent Real through to a final date with Liverpool in Paris later this month and prolonged the long wait of City, last year’s runners-up, for European glory.

Pep Guardiola said: “I have had defeats in the Champions League, I had tough defeats at Barcelona when we could not reach the final.

“But it is tough for us, I cannot deny that. We were so close to the Champions League final.

“We didn’t play well in the first half, we didn’t find our game. The second half was much better and after the goal, we had control.

“We found our game but unfortunately we could not finish. The players gave everything. We were so close.”

City must now regroup ahead of a crucial Premier League game against Newcastle this weekend.

Real, who are bidding for a record-extending 14th European crown, beat Liverpool in the 2018 final.

Real manager Carlo Ancelotti, who last year was managing Liverpool’s neighbours Everton, said: “The game was close to being finished but we managed to find the last energy we had.

“We played a good game against a strong rival. When we were able to equalise, we had a psychological advantage in extra time.

“I cannot say we are used to living this kind of life, but what happened tonight happened against Chelsea and also against Paris.

“If you have to say why, it is the history of this club that helps us to keep going when it seems that we are gone.

“I am happy to be in the final, in Paris against another great team. It will be a fantastic game for football.”

Categories
football Slides Sports News

MANCHESTER CITY CLAIM SLENDER ADVANTAGE IN SEVEN-GOAL THRILLER WITH REAL MADRID

Manchester City claimed a slender advantage in their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid after a dramatic 4-3 victory at the Etihad Stadium.

The Premier League leaders raced into a 2-0 lead in a pulsating first-leg encounter with goals from the irrepressible Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus in the first 11 minutes.

Real responded through the prolific Karim Benzema before Phil Foden and Vinicius Junior traded goals early in the second half.

Bernardo Silva gave City a two-goal advantage but Benzema scored a cheeky penalty – his 41st goal of the season in as many appearances – to cut the deficit once again.

Both sides spurned numerous other chances in a compelling and breathless clash that set the stage for a fascinating second leg next week.

City may regret not making the most of a number of early opportunities as they stormed out of the blocks. They could almost have put the tie out of sight in the opening half-hour but Real, after fine comebacks against Paris St Germain and Chelsea in the previous two rounds, fought back again.

Real were sluggish and sloppy and continually left spaces for the hosts to exploit. Some of Foden’s touches were exquisite and De Bruyne’s throughballs were a constant danger.

It was De Bruyne who got City off to the dream start, heading their opening goal after just two minutes from a Riyad Mahrez cross.

The atmosphere crackled and City took further inspiration, doubling their lead nine minutes later.

Foden showed great control before laying off to De Bruyne, who drilled a low ball into the box for Jesus. The Brazilian had his back to goal but, buoyed by the four-goal haul against Watford that earned him a place in the side, was too quick for David Alaba. He turned sharply, wrongfooting the defender and blasted a low shot past Thibaut Courtois.

City went close again as Oleksandr Zinchenko fired wide and Mahrez infuriated manager Pep Guardiola by hitting the side-netting rather than squaring for Foden, who later shot wide himself.

Yet as well as City were playing, they did look vulnerable at the back. Guardiola’s gamble in rushing back John Stones from injury to play at right-back in the absence of Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker also backfired.

The England international struggled and was caught out as Benzema crossed and Alaba glanced a header wide.

City failed to heed that warning and Real scored through the same route, this time Ferland Mendy crossing for Benzema to divert in. Stones was replaced by Fernandinho moments later.

City upped the tempo after the break and hit the post through Mahrez. Foden’s follow-up attempt was blocked by Dani Carvajal but he made no mistake in the 53rd minute as he got on the end of a fine cross from makeshift right-back Fernandinho to head City’s third.

Yet again from a position of control, City allowed Real back into the game. Vinicius turned Fernandinho out wide and was too quick for the rest of the defence, racing into the box to slot into the bottom corner.

It could even have been 3-3 soon after as Eder Militao found space but aimed his header at Ederson.

Such was the tension that Guardiola was booked for coming out of his technical area.

City were determined to add to their tally and their fourth came after referee Istvan Kovacs played a good advantage when Toni Kroos felled Zinchenko on the edge of the area. Real stopped expecting the whistle to be blown but Silva played on and smacked a shot into the top corner. They pushed on even after that, with Mahrez inches away from another.

Real were not done and pulled another one back eight minutes from time with a Panenka penalty from the cool Benzema after Aymeric Laporte handled.

Categories
football Slides Sports News

GABRIEL JESUS SCORES FOUR AS MANCHESTER CITY RUN RIOT AGAINST WATFORD

Gabriel Jesus struck four times as Manchester City crushed Watford 5-1 to chalk off another win in their battle with Liverpool for the Premier League title.

The Brazilian also provided the assist for City’s other goal, a stunning strike by Rodri, as the champions increased their lead at the top of the table to four points.

Hassane Kamara did get on the scoresheet for the visitors but Roy Hodgson’s relegation-threatened side were no match for City, who were relentless and efficient in attack.

Seven points off safety and having played more games than the sides immediately above them, the Hornets are running out of time.

Such was City’s dominance they could ease off in the closing stages knowing the onus was now on Liverpool to respond against Everton on Sunday. It also gave them chance to conserve some energy ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.

Meanwhile Jesus could savour his fine riposte to speculation about his future in the light of strong reports linking City with Erling Haaland.

Pep Guardiola’s side have dished out plenty of punishment to Watford in recent years, not least in thrashing them 6-0 in the 2019 FA Cup final and then 8-0 and 4-0 the following season.

Watford had lost their previous 14 matches against City and not beaten them since 1989, and it soon became apparent that dismal record was only going to get worse.

City needed just four minutes to force their way ahead. Joao Cancelo sent a deep cross to the left and Oleksandr Zinchenko pulled back across the six-yard line for Jesus, one of six changes made to the side by Guardiola, to pounce.

The Hornets spurned a glorious chance to equalise soon after when Cancelo lost possession. Emmanuel Dennis burst clean through and should have tested Ederson but dithered too long and Zinchenko raced back to tackle.

Cancelo almost made instant amends for that error as he got into a shooting position from a Jesus lay-off but Ben Foster pushed away his powerful strike.

City’s second came in the 23rd minute as Kevin De Bruyne yet again showed his mastery by curling in a brilliant cross from the right. It was so accurate that Jesus’ task of nodding in was relatively simple.

Despite their dominance, City were still prone to the occasional defensive lapse and another slip allowed Watford to pull one back against the run of play.

Dennis flicked a fine pass into the path of Kamara and the Ivorian lashed a low left-footed shot through the arms of a diving Ederson.

Yet it was only a brief stemming of the tide as Rodri soon made it 3-1 with a great goal.

There were groans as the influential De Bruyne landed awkwardly attempting a through-ball but play continued with the Belgian on the ground.

Jesus won the ball on the right and clipped back inside for Rodri, who chested down and then thumped a half-volley into the top corner. With De Bruyne back on his feet before the game resumed, City looked in fine shape.

Raheem Sterling should have added another when he blazed over moments later but Jesus made no mistake to complete his treble from the penalty spot after being felled by Foster in the opening moments of the second half.

Jesus then claimed his fourth after 53 minutes by sweeping a low shot past Foster after playing a one-two with De Bruyne.

Foster was in action again when he needed to scramble back to prevent the ball rebounding into the net off Christian Kabasele.

With the job impressively done by City, the final half-hour was played at a much slower tempo with thoughts on bigger tests to come.

Categories
football Slides Sports News

MANCHESTER CITY OVERCOME STUBBORN BRIGHTON TO RETURN TO PREMIER LEAGUE SUMMIT

Manchester City struck three times in the second half to reclaim top spot in the Premier League with an ultimately convincing 3-0 victory over Brighton on Wednesday.

The scoreline did not tell the full story of a nervy contest at the Etihad Stadium in which the champions were frustrated by Graham Potter’s resolute side before the break.

It took deflected strikes from Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden for them to break through and the sense of relief that swept round the ground after an anxious opening period was tangible.

Bernardo Silva settled any nerves completely with a fine third goal for the hosts eight minutes from time.

Liverpool’s hammering of Manchester United on Tuesday had put the pressure back on City in a thrilling title race.

Manager Pep Guardiola made six changes following Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final loss to the Reds, with Kevin De Bruyne and Ederson among those to return.

Consequently there was no shortage of confidence from the home side but Brighton were in no mood to make things easy.

City first showed their threat after 10 minutes as they pieced together a slick move and Foden whipped in a cross from the left but Mahrez failed to make decent contact with his header.

Mahrez was gifted another chance soon after when goalkeeper Robert Sanchez’s clearance fell straight to him but the Algerian took too long and allowed Moises Caicedo to get back and tackle.

Sanchez was more convincing when he punched away away a De Bruyne cross and he also did well to claw away an effort from Silva under his own bar.

The closest City came in the first half was when De Bruyne unleashed a ferocious shot from distance but it flew narrowly wide.

City continued to push but Brighton’s determination was epitomised before the break by captain Lewis Dunk, who stood firm to block an Ilkay Gundogan effort.

City were forced into a change at half-time as Nathan Ake, who started at left-back, was replaced by Ruben Dias after suffering a knock.

Dias, himself returning to action after nine games out injured, took up his familiar position at centre-back with John Stones moving to right-back and Joao Cancelo switching flanks to the left.

City upped the tempo and forced a succession of corners before finally making their breakthrough after 53 minutes.

De Bruyne led a breakaway from deep and fed Mahrez, although the pass was made better by a lucky ricochet. With the chance opening up, Mahrez raced in on goal and hit a shot that also took a deflection, this time off Dunk, and looped over goalkeeper Sanchez.

With that, a lot of the tension in the air seemed to evaporate and City were roared on further.

Brighton remained resolute enough to block an effort from Stones in a crowded area and for Sanchez to save well from De Bruyne but the visitors were breached again on 65 minutes.

Again City benefited from a stroke of fortune as Foden took aim from distance following a corner and saw his effort clip Enock Mwepu to wrong-foot Sanchez and find the bottom corner.

Foden went close to another after being put through soon after but Sanchez stood tall to save with his legs.

City wrapped up the game late on after Brighton made a mess of playing out from the back.

Substitute Oleksandr Zinchenko won possession and found De Bruyne, who in turn fed Silva to sweep home from the edge of the area.

Categories
football Slides Sports News

LIVERPOOL KEEP QUADRUPLE BID ALIVE BY BEATING MANCHESTER CITY IN FA CUP SEMIS

Liverpool kept their bid for an unprecedented quadruple on track as their 3-2 FA Cup semi-final win also ended Manchester City’s hopes of a treble.

England’s top two teams served up another epic encounter but, having drawn 2-2 in the Premier League just six days ago, Jurgen Klopp’s side deservedly came out on top at Wembley.

It was not without a little help from City’s number two Zack Steffen, their designated cup goalkeeper, whose huge first-half error with the score at 1-0 contributed to the game getting away from them.

But that should not take away from the excellence of Liverpool who were as brilliant in the first half as they were passive in the opening 45 minutes at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Man of the match Sadio Mane scored twice to add to Ibrahima Konate’s opener as they raced into a 3-0 interval lead.

Goals from Jack Grealish, early in the second half, and Bernardo Silva, in added time, ensured Liverpool were never as comfortable as they wanted to be but, despite some concerted late City pressure, the seven-time winners booked a 15th final appearance.

Both sides made seven changes from their midweek Champions League games but the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, an unused substitute after requiring stitches in a foot wound, appeared the most significant considering how the Belgium international had dominated proceedings last weekend.

Klopp retained centre-back Konate, midfielder Naby Keita and forward Luis Diaz from the midweek draw with Benfica, and they were the only three players who had not featured in the starting line-up at the Etihad on Sunday.

A minute’s silence to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy, when 97 Liverpool fans were killed at an FA Cup semi-final, was brought to an abrupt and premature end when some City fans chose to sing through it and were met with a chorus of boos from Reds supporters.

City subsequently apologised but by the time they had issued a statement their team were already 2-0 down.

Klopp’s team selection was perhaps influenced by their first half six days ago when they were lacklustre and allowed City to dominate.

There was no repeat with Keita providing the legs which were previously missing and Mane, in particular, pushing the press higher and faster.

It allowed City no time to settle, and they found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being dominated from a possession and territorial point of view.

Guardiola’s over-complicated formation, with Raheem Sterling as a false nine but particularly Grealish floating behind the front three, left them lacking in midfield, and it was clinically exploited by Liverpool.

Their first goal, however, came from an increasingly familiar source with Konate heading home from an 11th-minute corner for his third opening goal in as many games, escaping marker Gabriel Jesus at the Reds’ first corner and outjumping Nathan Ake.

If that was bad from City’s point of view what came next was abysmal.

John Stones’ backpass to Steffen looked simple enough but, unlike first-choice Ederson last week, whose coolness under pressure on his own goalline avoided a goal at the Etihad, the United States international was far too ponderous.

His delay was so long it allowed Mane to close him down and put in a tackle which forced the ball over the line.

If that was a deserved reward for the Senegal international’s tireless work-rate his second moments before the break was testament to his enduring quality.

With players from both sides massed on the edge of City’s penalty area, Thiago Alcantara’s vision and technical ability saw him chip a cheeky pass around the blockade for Mane to hit a brilliant, sliced volley which beat Steffen at his near post.

City’s response came just 75 seconds after the interval when they capitalised on Andy Robertson’s loss of possession to release Jesus down the right, with the Brazilian cutting inside his international team-mate Fabinho to tee up Grealish to lash home.

When Jesus threatened again Alisson Becker was forced to save at his near post and with more than half an hour remaining the game was far from over.

Fernandinho, who this week announced he is leaving at the end of the season, had struggled with the pace of the game as City’s only genuine holding midfielder and was fortunate to only be booked for a late, sliding lunge on Mane.

Jesus was proving to be City’s most dangerous threat but, when played through by Grealish, his unconvincing shot was turned behind by Alisson, while at the other end Steffen was grasping at thin air after Oleksandr Zinchenko left a headed backpass short but Salah could only loft a shot into the side-netting.

Silva’s close-range finish in the first of four added minutes cranked up the tension but, despite a couple of even later scares, Liverpool clung on.

Categories
football Sports News

WE ARE IN BIG TROUBLE: GUARDIOLA MOAN OVER INJURIES EN ROUTE TREBLE CHASE

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola admitted his treble-chasing side were in “big trouble” after picking up injuries during their Champions League triumph over Atletico Madrid.

A 0-0 second leg draw in a fiery clash in the Spanish capital secured a 1-0 aggregate win and sent the Premier League leaders into the semi-finals.

But, just days before their FA Cup semi-final clash with title rivals Liverpool, City saw Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker both come off with injuries while Phil Foden left the pitch heavily bandaged.

“We are in big trouble,” Guardiola told BT Sport.

“We cannot forget we played three days ago a tough game against Liverpool. We came here, we have a lot of injuries. I don’t know what will happen in the next weeks but today we are going to celebrate.

“It is the third time in Manchester City’s history we are in the semi-finals of the Champions League and it is a big success for us to be there.”

Guardiola did not mention how severe the injuries were, while he also claimed he had “nothing to say” on the ugly scenes which marred his side’s progression on Wednesday night.

The match ended in rancour and bitterness with scuffles on the field and in the tunnel.

First a melee involving numerous players from both sides broke out on the field after Felipe kicked Foden.

Amongst the trouble Atletico defender Stefan Savic pulled unused City substitute Jack Grealish’s hair after the pair exchanged words. Felipe was sent off for his involvement.

The problems continued after the teams left the field with players needing to be separated in the tunnel. TV footage showed objects being thrown and police reportedly became involved to restore order.

Asked about the incidents in his post-match press conference, Guardiola simply said he had “nothing to say”.

Pressed further in relation to the head injury sustained by Foden in another poor challenge from Felipe in the first half, Guardiola said: “I don’t talk about referees or the opponents either.”

There was also a suggestion Guardiola had liquid thrown at him as he headed for the tunnel.

He said: “Everyone saw the action but I have nothing to say.”

Guardiola preferred to focus on the determined effort of his players to claim a result amid fierce provocation and an intimidating atmosphere.

“They pushed us a lot,” Guardiola said. “Atletico were excellent in the second half and we forgot to play. We were in big trouble and they had chances to score.

“We had one or two clear chances in the first half but in the second half of the second leg they were much better. But at the same time we defended with everything.

“We had to adapt. We could not have the ball and we felt the pressure. We are in the semi-finals and it is an incredible achievement for our club.”

Atletico coach Diego Simeone also refused to comment much on the controversies.

Simeone said: “I always think justice should be implemented by other people. It is the referee who should implement justice.”

On his side’s general performance, Simeone said: “We are disappointed because we are out. You always want to win, no matter how you win. Winning is the most important thing.

“But of course it was a very difficult tie against an extraordinary rival. We contained their strength and they only had a couple of chances.

“We played better in the second half and created chances that could have allowed us to win but we were not clinical.”