Firmino Milner and several more flirt with perfection in Liverpool win

Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino secured Liverpool’s progression past Manchester City into the Champions League semifinals for the first time since 2008.
Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino secured Liverpool’s progression past Manchester City into the Champions League semifinals for the first time since 2008.
ESPN FC’s Steve Nicol recounts his rollercoaster of emotions during Liverpool’s second-leg win over Manchester City.

For a while it looked like they might be in trouble, but Liverpool showed great resilience and eventually their attacking quality shone through as they wore City down to book their place in the semifinals with a 2-1 win at the Etihad on Tuesday. Pep Guardiola will feel aggrieved at certain decisions that went against City in both games, but the 5-1 aggregate scoreline tells its own story. Liverpool deserved to go through.


This was the kind of display that many felt the Reds were incapable of producing. It’s all well and good winning at Anfield, riding the crest of a wave of emotion from the stands, but this was a whole different kind of statement by Liverpool.


The one thing Liverpool needed to avoid was conceding an early goal, yet that’s exactly what happened. It was a self-inflicted wound, but it is to the players’ credit that they were able to come back from it and and win the game.

Manager rating out of 10

10 — Whatever Jurgen Klopp said at half-time certainly did the trick as Liverpool were brilliant in the second half. Guardiola had stocked his team with attacking players, but Klopp was brave and kept his three forward players on rather than introduce an extra defender. That bravery paid off as eventually Liverpool were able to exploit City’s shorthanded defence.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Loris Karius, 7 — Contributed to City’s opener by throwing the ball out to Virgil van Dijk when the Dutchman did not want it, but he was surprisingly underworked for the rest of the game despite the territorial dominance of the home side. Got a little lucky with an unconvincing punch and was grateful to the officials for incorrectly ruling out Leroy Sane’s goal, but overall Karius again looked confident and assured.

DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 9 — Just as they had in the first leg, City tried to target the youngster by feeding Sane at every possible opportunity, and just as he did in the first leg, the teenager nullified the threat of the dangerous young German. His composure in possession was every bit as impressive as his defensive positioning. Simply outstanding, even more so considering he was on a yellow card for most of the game.

DF Dejan Lovren, 9 — Aside from one mistimed challenge on Raheem Sterling that earned him a yellow card, Lovren was imperious. He made countless blocks and clearances, but perhaps his most telling contribution was the slight touch he got on Bernardo Silva’s shot that diverted it onto the post when it looked to be curling just inside it.

DF Virgil van Dijk, 8 — Caught out needlessly for City’s opener when he took too long to clear a ball down the line. He felt he was fouled by Sterling and he may have had a case, but he was too casual and paid the price. That moment aside, he was outstanding once again. Liverpool are a vastly different beast since his arrival in January.

DF Andrew Robertson, 8 — It was not a night for rampaging forward runs from Liverpool’s full-backs, so Robertson’s display wasn’t as eye catching as the it had been in the first leg, but he stuck to his task defensively against the dangerous Bernardo Silva and was as dependable as ever.

Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring in Liverpool's 2-1 win at Manchester City.
Roberto Firmino worked tirelessly and was rewarded with a goal in Liverpool’s win at Manchester City.

MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 8 — Chasing shadows in the first half because of how deep Liverpool played, but came into his own in a big way after the break. His coolness on the ball allowed the Reds to finally get a foothold in the game, and with the defence playing higher up the pitch, he was able to get among the City midfield and make his presence felt.

MF Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 8 — The England man is known for his rampaging runs from deep, yet it was his disciplined defending that shone through in this game. He did break forward to good effect just before half-time, but couldn’t hit the target from a tight angle.

MF James Milner, 9 — Another brilliant Champions League display from the skipper for the night. Tireless. Covered every blade of grass at least twice, used the ball intelligently and tackled and intercepted as though his very life depended on it. An unsung hero of this season.

FW Mohamed Salah, 8 — The first half was difficult for him as his teammates struggled to get him the ball early enough, but he still managed to look threatening and almost created a goal for Oxlade-Chamberlain. Came to life in the second half and took the one chance that fell to him. It’s hard to believe his finishing was being questioned earlier in the season as the Egyptian has ice in veins in front of goal now.

FW Roberto Firmino, 9 — Liverpool were under the cosh so much that Klopp switched his front three around to get Salah through the centre and Firmino wide due to his greater defensive discipline. The Brazilian got through an incredible amount of work for his team and earned his rewards when he robbed Nicolas Otamendi and calmly rolled a shot into the bottom corner.

FW Sadio Mane, 8 — Very unfortunate to pick up an early yellow card but maintained his composure and discipline and did a terrific job for the team. Helped out Alexander-Arnold and was always a willing runner to help Liverpool carry the fight to City. Played his part in Salah’s goal and might have been awarded a penalty if the Egyptian hadn’t pounced on the loose ball and scored.


DF Ragnar Klavan, N/R — Given a late run out when he replaced Firmino. Did what was needed.

DF Nathaniel Clyne, N/R — Replaced Alexander-Arnold for the closing stages. Neat and tidy.

FW Danny Ings, N/R — Came on for Salah for the final couple of minutes.

Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC’s Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.