LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) – Liverpool ripped apart Manchester City with three goals inside the opening 31 minutes as they won their Champions League quarter-final, first leg tie 3-0 on Wednesday.
Anfield has witnessed many memorable European nights over the years and this will take its place among the most spectacular as a simply devastating, first-half display was crowned with goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane.
The tie may not be over, with 90 minutes remaining at the Etihad on Tuesday, but Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp, who has enjoyed more wins over City counterpart Pep Guardiola than any other manager, will be delighted as his commitment to attacking football was amply rewarded.
Liverpool are the only team to have beaten City in the Premier League this season, with a thrilling 4-3 victory in January, and they repeated the formula of that success by attacking City’s defence from the outset.
Roared on by a particularly vocal home crowd, Liverpool put the Premier League’s champions-elect under intense pressure from the first kick and it took just 12 minutes for City to crack.
After a City corner, James Milner launched the ball forward, Salah broke from the halfway line and played the ball inside to Roberto Firmino.
His shot was blocked by City keeper Ederson but Firmino pounced on the loose ball and slipped it to Salah, who fired home.
City responded with a swift counter-attack of their own but Leroy Sane, who had broken from deep, screwed the ball wide when he could have played in team mate Kevin De Bruyne.
Liverpool were rampant though and harrying City off the ball in midfield when Milner won back possession and moved it straight to Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The former Arsenal midfielder unleashed an unstoppable drive from 25 metres to make it 2-0 in the 20th minute.
City were now reeling and looked nothing like the team that has marched so convincingly to a 16-point lead in the Premier League and it was not long before Juergen Klopp’s side made it 3-0.
Salah floated a teasing cross from the right towards Mane, who rose above the City defence to power a header past Ederson and send the Anfield crowd into delirium.
City came out brightly after the break though, finally managing to find some composure with their passing.
Liverpool were unable to get back into their first-half rhythm and they suffered a blow when Salah went off injured in the 52nd minute.
Guardiola’s side were back in their familiar role of controlling possession, but were struggling to create chances with Sane wasting a promising opening at the back post, one of a series of frustrations for the German left winger.
A miserable night for Sane, who was superbly handled by young Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold, was completed when he was ruled offside as he broke down the left and crossed for Gabriel Jesus to put the ball in the net.
Yet the fact that City’s late pressure was accompanied by audible tension from the Liverpool fans was a reminder that the tie is not over. Few teams could overturn a 3-0 deficit against Liverpool but Guardiola’s side is certainly one of them.