A Sadio Mane masterclass led Liverpool past Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley.
The much-anticipated Manchester City vs Liverpool matchup in the FA Cup semi-finals proved to be worth the billing as both sides put up another thrilling game. In what can best be billed as a game of two halves, both sides can only blame themselves for their troubles. Battered and bruised from their trip to the Wanda Metropolitano, Pep Guardiola made several changes to his side on the evening.
Liverpool, who rested the majority of their starters against Benfica, went in at full strength and it showed. The Reds were the better side in the opening 45 minutes and went into the break with a 3-0 lead. Sadio Mane was the star of the show for Liverpool as he chipped in with two goals.
The roles were reversed in the second half as Manchester City came flying out of the blocks and scored in the 47th minute. Liverpool were content on sitting back, letting their opponents do all the attacking. Alisson Becker was at hand several times to stop the Cityzens in their tracks as Liverpool looked set for a comfortable win.
However, substitute Riyad Mahrez set Bernardo Silva up for a stoppage-time strike to reduce the deficit to just one goal. What followed was a frantic final few minutes where both sides went close at either end. Jurgen Klopp’s men, however, hung on for a hard-fought win and will now return to Wembley for their second cup final of the season. For now, it would appear that the quadruple dream lives on.
The Hard Tackle looks at how both sets of players fared on the evening in what was an exhilarating contest.
Zack Steffen (4/10)
The Manchester City reserve goalkeeper was a surprise choice for such a high profile fixture and showed his nerves early on. His attempts to play out from the back like Ederson were cut short by Sadio Mane who instead bundled the ball home for the second goal. Steffen also should have done better for Liverpool’s third and was caught out by Mane once again, this time at the near post.
MANE CATCHES ZACK STEFFEN SLEEPING ? pic.twitter.com/X7GYqHqB04
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) April 16, 2022
Joao Cancelo (5/10)
One of Manchester City’s best players this season, the Portuguese international was pushed deep into his own half by an electric Luis Diaz. Cancelo often came out second best in his duels with the Colombian and can count himself lucky not to have received a yellow card in the first half.
John Stones (5/10)
If Steffen can be blamed for Liverpool’s second goal, it can be argued that Stones was the one who put him in a pickle. The Englishman struggled for large periods of the game with Liverpool’s direct approach and will have seen better days at the job.
Nathan Ake (6/10)
The Dutchman was decent and largely held his own. He was calm and composed in passing out from the back in a first half where his teammates self-imploded. He was alert in the second half and snuffed out a Liverpool counterattack after Mane put Mohamed Salah through. Ake was arguably Man City’s best player on the night.
Oleksandr Zinchenko (6/10)
The Ukrainian largely limited Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah’s impact on the right-wing and was disciplined on the evening. While it might have ultimately ended in a losing cause, Zinchenko showed he can do a job for Man City when called upon.
Bernardo Silva (5/10)
A fine player on his day, he can get petulant when things don’t go his way. Silva can count himself lucky not to earn a yellow card in the first half following some rather nasty challenges on the Liverpool players. He cut a largely frustrating figure and can have only himself to blame for a toothless performance.
He did put Jesus through on goal in the second half only for Alisson to deny him. He also gave his side late hope with a stoppage-time tap in that reduced the deficit to one goal.
— Mink (@minksfootie) April 16, 2022
The Man City skipper was not afraid to get stuck in and was involved in some rather key challenges. He can count himself lucky for avoiding a warning in the first half. He eventually received a yellow card in the second period following a challenge against Mane. His final FA Cup game for Manchester City and he volleyed over what could have been a sensational stoppage-time equaliser.
Phil Foden (4/10)
A player who is often Pep Guardiola’s game-changer, Foden failed to get going in the early stages and was effectively marked out by Liverpool.
Gabriel Jesus (6/10)
The Brazilian was largely drawn to the right flank as Andy Robertson and Luis Diaz teamed up against Cancelo. He earned Fabinho a yellow card with a clever move and also made the darting run that set up Jack Grealish’s goal. Jesus worked his socks off but had little joy against what was mostly a disciplined Liverpool defence.
The Brazilian could have cut the deficit to one goal had he converted Raheem Sterling’s pass in the 55th minute. Alisson had other ideas and was at hand to stop him on several occasions.
— City Xtra (@City_Xtra) April 16, 2022
Jack Grealish (5/10)
The Englishman had a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the early stages but failed to beat Alisson in the Liverpool goal. How the game could have played out had he scored is debatable. He did get on the scoresheet after some fine work by Jesus in the second half but was often found lacking in inspiration.
Raheem Sterling (4/10)
The former Liverpool man was largely anonymous and appears to be a pale shadow of himself. He played a fine pass to Jesus in the second half only for the Brazilian to be denied by Alisson. Sterling had a golden chance to be the hero in stoppage time but saw his effort saved well by Alisson.
Riyad Mahrez (6/10)
Man City’s lone substitute, Mahrez only got going into the 90th minute as he helped fashion Silva’s tap in. The goal gave the Cityzens inspiration to push forward, but it proved to be too little, too late.
Alisson Becker (7/10)
The Brazilian number one had a large comfortable first half and was at hand to deny Grealish early on. He contrived to work himself into trouble with some wayward passing but it thankfully went unpunished.
Alisson was called into action far more often in the second half with Jesus the main culprit. The shot-stopper had his international teammate’s number and denied him on multiple occasions. Liverpool’s No. 1 once again came out clutch when required.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (5/10)
A largely disappointing performance from one of the most electrifying players on the pitch. Alexander-Arnold played a few lovely passes throughout the game but lacked the killer instinct when it came to making decisive attacking contributions. The lack of chemistry with Mohamed Salah also saw the Egyptian struggle to impose himself.
Ibrahima Konate (7/10)
19 – Liverpool have scored 19 goals from corners in all competitions this season, the most of any Premier League side, with Ibrahima Konaté scoring the last three of these in each of his last three appearances. Specialists. pic.twitter.com/LcCLcMg6iI
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 16, 2022
What a signing the young Frenchman has been for Liverpool. He scored in his third start in a row and is emerging as a force to be reckoned with on set pieces. Konate also showed fine understanding alongside Virgil van Dijk and was often at hand to snuff out Man City attacks.
Virgil van Dijk (6/10)
The imperious Dutchman was always available for a pass and helped bring the ball out from defence. He should have done better in the leadup to Man City’s opening goal but otherwise was as solid for most of the game. Van Dijk could arguably have done better to organise his defence in the closing stages as Liverpool made life harder for themselves.
Andy Robertson (5/10)
The Scottish ace formed an excellent partnership alongside Luis Diaz and pushed Cancelo deeper into his own half. He made several darting runs and was ready to overlap when needed. Robertson, however, gave away the ball cheaply early in the second half, leading to Man City’s opener. He was also outstripped easily by Mahrez for their second. It is noteworthy that both of City’s goals came down his side.
Thiago Alcantara (8/10)
The Spaniard ran the show in the first half and was an assured presence in possession. He orchestrated the move that led to Liverpool’s third and was a lively presence in the middle of the pitch. Thiago’s ability to skip past challenges left Silva and Fernandinho duck-footed at times and the veteran will have a huge role to play in the coming games for the Reds.
Thiago Alcantara vs. Man City
92% Pass accuracy
6/7 Accurate long passes
2/2 Dribbles completed
9/10 Ground duels won
2/2 Aerial duels won
4/4 Tackles won
Just perfect. pic.twitter.com/SB4cRN0nIe
— The Tactical Times (@Tactical_Times) April 16, 2022
It was an improved performance over his horror show at the Etihad last week but the Brazilian still appears to be far from his best. He can count himself unlucky to have been awarded a yellow for an apparent foul on Jesus in the first half. This largely took the steam out of his engine and he appeared afraid to get stuck in for the rest of the game. Ir proved telling as his lack of application led to Jesus setting up Man City’s opener.
Naby Keita (6/10)
The Guinean weaved and sidestepped his way past a rather out of sorts Man City midfield in the first half. He called for the ball in tight spaces and linked up well with teammates as Liverpool took the game to their opponents. He was taken off for Jordan Henderson in the second half as Jurgen Klopp sought to regain the upper hand in midfield.
Luis Diaz (7/10)
The Colombian was a constant thorn in Man City’s side and proved to be a difficult man to pin down. Cancelo struggled for the majority of the first half as the Liverpool star’s pace and directness proved a deadly combination. Diaz’s signing has certainly added fresh impetus to Liverpool’s season and he could yet have a huge role to play in the weeks to come.
Mohamed Salah (4/10)
The Egyptian’s poor run of form continued as he once again hit a blank. Salah had opportunities but his decision-making was suspect as he squandered several good opportunities. He has been out of sorts for a while now and it might be time for the Reds to bench their star man.
Sadio Mane (8/10)
2+2 – Sadio Mané is the first Liverpool player to score twice in an FA Cup semi-final since Robbie Fowler against Aston Villa in 1996, while he’s the first to score a brace for the Reds at Wembley since Steve McManaman in the League Cup final against Bolton in 1995. Twofold. pic.twitter.com/G0ssxQkggv
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 16, 2022
The Senegalese superstar was the difference-maker on the evening and decided the game in the first 45 minutes. It is easy to forget that he is currently fasting, given his electric performances on the field. Mane led the frontline well and was on point to close down Steffen for Liverpool’s second.
He also scored the best goal of the game, squeezing in a strike at the near post just before half-time. It proved to be the winner as Liverpool head back to Wembley for the FA Cup final.
Jordan Henderson (6/10)
The Liverpool captain did, to an extent, help his side regain control of the midfield. He made a few fine runs late on.
Roberto Firmino (6/10)
The Brazilian replaced Diaz late on and had an excellent chance to finish off Man City in stoppage time. He was unable to find a way past Steffen, though.
Diogo Jota (N/A)
Liverpool’s second-highest top scorer this season replaced the sensational Mane to a standing ovation in the 85th minute. He closed down the Man City defenders well but failed to fashion any opportunities for himself.
Curtis Jones (N/A)
The youngster was a late substitute for the excellent Thiago. Jones saw little of the ball and had little time to make an impact.