Liverpool beats Man City 2-1, into Champions League semis

Liverpool beats Man City 2-1, into Champions League semis
The Associated Press

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Liverpool reached the Champions League semifinals after recovering from conceding a goal inside two minutes against Manchester City to win 2-1 thanks to second-half strikes by Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino on Tuesday.

Gabriel Jesus’ early goal raised belief inside Etihad Stadium that one of the most unlikely Champions League comebacks was on, with Liverpool having won the first leg 3-0 at Anfield last week.

City’s attacking lineup was always susceptible to the counter-attack, however. And off one of them, Salah collected a loose ball, rounded goalkeeper Ederson Moraes and deftly chipped in the equalizer in the 56th for his 39th goal of the season.

With City now needing four goals in barely half an hour to advance, Liverpool knew a spot in the last four for the first time in 10 years was there for the taking. Firmino made sure of it by curling in the team’s second goal in the 77th.

Liverpool, which won 5-1 on aggregate, is bidding for its sixth title in Europe’s top competition — and its first since 2005.

Surprisingly, Roma joined Liverpool in the semifinals by delivering one of the biggest upsets in the competition’s recent history, beating Barcelona 3-0 to advance on the away-goals rule at 4-4.

After goals by Edin Dzeko and Daniele De Rossi, center back Kostas Manolas scored the decisive goal with a header from a corner in the 82nd minute at the Stadio Olimpico.

Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are in good positions to complete the last-four lineup when the quarterfinals are wrapped up on Wednesday. Madrid leads Juve 3-0 and Bayern leads Sevilla 2-1.

It was the latest Champions League failure by City manager Pep Guardiola, who won the competition twice with Barcelona — in 2009 and ’11 — but hasn’t reached the final since in five season with Bayern Munich and City.

Guardiola was sent to the stands for the second half for arguing with referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz during halftime. He and City can legitimately complain that Leroy Sane had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside at the end of the first half, which would have made it 2-0.

But over two legs, City can have few complaints and were always up against it after conceding three goals in 19 first-half minutes at Anfield and failing to score an away goal.

Guardiola made his intentions clear by selecting an aggressive, adventurous 3-1-3-3 formation for the second leg. All-out attack was the only option if City was to become only the third team to overturn at least a three-goal first-leg deficit in the Champions League knockout stage.

They got the early goal they desperately needed.

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk was shoved to the ground by Raheem Sterling as the defender made a clearance, which was picked up by Fernandinho. He slid the ball through to Sterling, who squared it for Jesus to stroke in a cool finish from 15 meters.

It was game on for City and its jubilant fans, who did their best to make it an intimidating atmosphere for Liverpool and referee Lahoz.

Liverpool held firm until halftime, fortunately as it turned out.

Soon after Bernardo Silva struck a long-range shot against the post, Sane had a goal disallowed — incorrectly as it turned out — for offside. The assistant referee thought the ball reached the winger from Sterling, although it actually came off Liverpool’s James Milner.

Fury swirled around the Etihad. Fernandinho remonstrated with the referee and had to be pulled away by Guardiola. However, the City coach must have continued the verbal assault as he was sent to the stands for the second half.

His mood wouldn’t have improved 12 minutes into the second half, when Liverpool nicked the crucial away goal.

Sadio Mane surged between Kyle Walker and Nicolas Otamendi into the area. Ederson got his hand to the ball but Salah nipped in, rounded the goalkeeper and applied a deft chip over Aymeric Laporte, who slid in attempting a goal-line block.

That punctured any optimism inside the Etihad and Liverpool fans’ celebrations were already in full swing by the time Firmino pounced on an error by Otamendi to score the winner on the night.

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More AP Champions League coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/ChampionsLeague

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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

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