Liverpool to the final as Man City’s defense fails to clear its lines

Manchester City’s reshuffled defense failed them in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium.

So, following a disappointing day at Wembley, Manchester City’s treble quest is over. Their supporters embarrassed themselves by disrupting a minute of silence for the Hillsborough victims before the game, while the players played as if they were still stiff from their Champions League match against Atletico Madrid. While City supporters may argue that they are still in competitions that matter, it is difficult to describe a joyful day for the club in any way.

The worries of empty seats at Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Manchester City were unwarranted, as a crowd of just under 74,000 was registered. Despite the fact that there were no direct trains into London from that part of England for Easter owing to engineering works, the national stadium was hosting two clubs from the north-west. The game of the people.

It was a long cry from the geometric performance at Etihad Stadium six days earlier. It had been a day of unforced errors and stodgy-looking attacks. Both teams seem tired as if the season’s excellence has worn them down. The city had a half-chance after three minutes when Joao Cancelo supplied Jack Grealish, but the striker was delayed and his shot was blocked.

Cancelo’s pass and Grealish’s reaction were both a little late with less than three minutes remaining.

Manchester City’s new defense seemed to have lost the game after just 16 minutes. Nathan Ake’s right-corner challenge was met by Ibrahima Konate, who buried it into the top corner. Six minutes later, Zack Steffen, the stand-in goalie, misjudged a backpass, enabling Sadio Mane to slip in and nudge the ball past the line from under his foot.

Ederson shook his head ruefully, having previously gotten away with something similar against the same opponent. The period between the two goals was played in a pink fog when a smoke bomb was fired into the pitch behind the Liverpool goal. After a lethargic first half, City’s best chance to quickly get back into the game came when Alisson almost had his own backpass charged down.

It was a messy first half full of unforced errors, but not by halftime. Thiago and Trent Alexander-Arnold exchanged passes on the left side of the penalty box before finding Mane, who fired a low attempt inside Steffen’s left post. Liverpool, who had started the game with an intensity that had been absent in some of their Premier League games against City, went into half-time three goals ahead and cruising.

But City were back in the game 70 seconds into the second half when Grealish scored from a run on the right by Gabriel Jesus, who drew the offside trap. Normally, a three-goal lead at halftime is sufficient to proclaim a game won. The regular rules do not apply.

Liverpool were vulnerable after conceding two goals and facing a challenge for the first time all day. Jesus broke through after five minutes, but Alisson stopped his attempt. Liverpool supporters taunted every ball that approached the goalkeeper with Steffen in the goal in front of them.

Liverpool had enough about them to dampen City’s immediate post-goal enthusiasm (the high press was more frenzied in the second half than it had been in the first), but scoring so quickly did give the match a lift.

A minute later, two possibilities presented themselves within two minutes of one other, any of which may have altered the result. Although Jesus broke through the right channel, he tried to pass the ball past Alisson, who stopped it. This Easter weekend, the meaning of resurrection extended beyond Jesus. Then, two minutes later, a Luis Diaz pass and an Oleksandr Zinchenko slip sent Salah in, but he could only hit the side netting.

As the game approached its last 15 minutes, both teams seemed to recognize the seriousness of the situation. Selecting which awards to win is second-rate. True champions will take anything they can get. Riyad Mahrez raced to the touchline in stoppage time and dragged the ball across the goal for Bernardo Silva to score from close range.

A contest that seemed to be won was suddenly up for grabs. Manchester City moved forward, revealing the whites of Liverpool’s eyes. Fernandinho and Mahrez both had efforts deflected inside a minute. Steffen also obstructed Firmino’s path. But two goals in four minutes against the Premier League’s second-placed team was too much for Manchester City.

Do we still… ignore Liverpool, despite the fact that they are second in the Premier League and vying for four trophies? Liverpool are still aiming for a Quadruple, something City can only achieve half of this season, and they are unbeaten against City. Both teams still have harder games ahead of them, but Liverpool has received a major psychological lift. The quadruple is still there.

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