Liverpool’s quadruple hopes remain intact as they beat rivals Manchester City 3-2 to secure their spot in the FA Cup final.
The Reds and City are neck-and-neck in the Premier League and could yet contest the Champions League final, but Saturday’s win at Wembley made it advantage Liverpool in their 2021-22 trophies duel.
While City were without Kyle Walker and only had Kevin De Bruyne on the bench due to injury, Liverpool restored several key players to their line-up after a midweek rest and it was evident throughout a first half that the Reds dominated.
Liverpool were 3-0 up by half-time thanks to Ibrahima Konate’s early header and a Sadio Mane double, with City goalkeeper Zack Steffen at fault for the Senegal forward’s first goal.
Jack Grealish pulled one back early in the second period and Bernardo Silva’s late tap-in forced a tense finish, but Liverpool held on.
Jurgen Klopp’s men were ahead inside nine minutes, Konate towering above everyone to head home Andrew Robertson’s corner.
It was 2-0 soon after. Where Ederson escaped a goal-line blunder in their Premier League showdown last weekend, Steffen was punished by Mane as the attacker’s tackle saw the ball ricochet into the net.
City seemingly found themselves all but beaten on the stroke of half-time, Mane lashing home on the volley after a sublime Thiago Alcantara pass.
Grealish picked out the top-left corner with a lovely finish of his own just after the restart, and Silva nudged in from close range in second-half stoppage time to set Liverpool nerves jangling.
But it was too little, too late for City as two fantastic defensive blocks helped Liverpool hold firm to reach a first FA Cup final in 10 years.
What does it mean? City dealt psychological blow
City clinched the draw that kept them in charge at the Premier League summit last weekend, but Liverpool were so much better at times here that one has to wonder if the Reds have the upper hand – at least mentally – over Pep Guardiola’s side as we head into the final weeks of the season.
Of course, it is by no means a given that either side will reach the Champions League final, but both will be favourites for their respective ties and this success could well provide Liverpool with that extra bit of belief.
City may yet go on to win the Premier League and Champions League themselves, but Liverpool made something of a statement in the first half, even if they were a little desperate in the closing stages.
Sadio the Mane man
It is difficult to look beyond Mane as the standout player in this game. He was decisive with two goals, each typified by its own unique excellence.
Mane’s persistence and pressing was obviously key for his first, punishing Steffen’s lack of concentration, while his second was simply an exquisite strike. He became the first Liverpool player to score twice in an FA Cup semi-final since Robbie Fowler against Aston Villa in 1996, while he is the first to score a brace for the Reds at Wembley since Steve McManaman in an EFL Cup final in 1995.
Salah fades into the background
Until the latter stages, Salah was very quiet. While he managed three shots, they all came from the 72nd minute onwards when the game had opened up and only one was on target. He also failed to lay on any key passes.
Klopp insisted on Friday that the Egyptian will finish the season strong, but there were few signs of that at Wembley.
Key Opta Facts
– Liverpool have reached the FA Cup final for a 15th time. Only Arsenal (21) and Manchester United (20) have reached the competition’s showpiece more times.
– City are only the second side to be eliminated from the semi-final stage of the FA Cup in three consecutive seasons, after rivals United from 1963-64 to 1965-66.
– City have now lost four of their last five matches at Wembley in all competitions, including three FA Cup semi-finals in the last three campaigns, while they conceded three goals in the first half of a match for the first time since April 2018, also against Liverpool.
– Liverpool have scored 19 goals from corners in all competitions this season, the most of any Premier League side.
– Mane has scored 10 goals against Man City, only scoring more against Crystal Palace (13) since he arrived in England in 2014. In fact, since the start of the 2014-15 season, this is more than any other player has scored against the Citizens in all competitions.
City must now ensure this slip-up does not impact their league form as they host Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday, while Liverpool welcome bitter rivals Manchester United to Anfield a day earlier.