The most notable factor in the build-up to the FA Cup semi-final was Man City’s squad selection. The absence of Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker was expected after their midweek knockouts, but Pep Guardiola also rested Rodri, Ederson and Laporte. This ended up being crucial, as City no longer had their top three tempo checkers from deep positions. While in the league meeting City had done an excellent job of neutralizing Liverpool’s press before launching comfortable long passes, here they could never escape the pressure long enough to even attempt the same strategy. The second goal, from Sadio Mane, was the most emblematic of this, with Steffen’s poor control next to his own goal contrasting sharply with Ederson’s assured touch in the same situation the previous week.
Klopp’s selection, intentionally or coincidentally, was a perfect match for that. The inclusion of Naby Keita in midfield, who put on a fantastic game, was particularly fitting. Against City’s weakened build-up he was a pressing savant, constantly turning the ball over in the high areas and not allowing City to take control of the game. Although he was substituted in the second half, having played almost the entire game against Benfica as well, his performance during this period was still enough to put him in contention for the best player of the day. It was also a much better performance from Fabinho and Thiago, who both excelled in the first half in particular. Thiago was sometimes unplayable with his distribution.
At the back, it was once again a nervous display on the ball from the Reds’ most expensive players. It’s very unusual and can therefore easily be considered a few bad days, but Alisson and Van Dijk didn’t seem to have recovered from their problems in the league game. Alisson constantly wandered off in the first half. The good news was that these issues were isolated to them as both put on fine defensive displays, with Alisson making a number of crucial saves which ended up being needed to hold on to the win as Man City threatened to equalize. late.
It was a more forceful effort from the Liverpool forwards today, with Diaz and Mane running around the City defense at times. Mo Salah, meanwhile, is clearly paying some sort of cosmic debt for his excellent finish at the start of the season, as he continues to be thwarted in his attempts to score from open play despite playing quite well. A few times in this game he did a great job, skinning his man and opening the box, only to obediently tip him into Zack Steffen or roll him away from the post. One will eventually come in, and hopefully that will open the floodgates for a deluge of goals as the season enters its final weeks.
Liverpool fans spoke well today as the atmosphere felt more like a home game than a neutral venue for most of the game. Before kick-off, however, the minute’s silence in memory of the Hillsborough disaster was interrupted by chants from some supporters in the town. This disgusting posting will hopefully be investigated and punished through the appropriate channels. It does, however, speak to a rotten streak that runs through much of football fan culture. We all know the fan chants of many clubs that are based on sectarian ideas. Both in stadiums and on social media, you will find goons who find it funny to call Scousers victims. The tolerance and even celebration of this stuff that you find in certain circles of the wider fan culture is what encourages the mindset behind today’s posting. Authorities can do their part to find and punish the perpetrators, but there also needs to be an awareness for fans to call out and condemn this type of behavior as they see it, even on their own.
But at least for sporting events, it was a good day for the Reds, a day that keeps alive the dream of a quadruple and maintains that momentum so intangible because even the most marginal psychological gains can be so significant. The Reds go to the FA Cup final.