Match report as Liverpool edge Manchester City in a five-goal thriller to reach the FA Cup final; Sadio Mane scored twice in the first half but City fought back through Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva to push the Reds close at Wembley
Sunday 17 April 2022 13:16, UK
Liverpool produced a devastating first-half performance before then surviving a Manchester City fightback to beat their Premier League title rivals 3-2 at Wembley and advance to the FA Cup final.
Six days on from the thrilling 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League, Jurgen Klopp's team appeared to be cruising into the final after scoring three unanswered goals during a one-sided first half as Sadio Mane scored twice after Ibrahima Konate's early header.
Klopp later described Liverpool's first-half display as "one of the best" of his tenure but City rallied after the break, reducing the deficit almost immediately when Jack Grealish fired home from a Gabriel Jesus pass. Bernardo Silva then set up a tense finale when he slid home from close range in the 90th minute.
Liverpool were indebted to Alisson for keeping City at bay before that, the goalkeeper twice denying Gabriel Jesus, while at the opposite end Zack Steffen, picked in place of Ederson, was badly at fault for Mane's first goal, when the 30-year-old charged him down, and his second, when his volley beat him at his near post.
Liverpool's victory, jubilantly celebrated by the red-shirted fans who made the trip to a sun-drenched Wembley, ends City's treble hopes and keeps their own dream of a quadruple alive after their Carabao Cup triumph earlier this season.
Liverpool will face either Chelsea or Crystal Palace in their first FA Cup final under Klopp on May 14 and they will also hope this win gives them a psychological edge over City as they head into the Premier League run-in separated by a single point at the top of the table.
In front of a raucous Wembley crowd, Manchester City had the first sight of goal when Grealish's low effort from Joao Cancelo's cut-back was blocked, but from then on the first half was all Liverpool.
Man City: Steffen (4), Cancelo (6), Stones (5), Ake (5), Zinchenko (6), Fernandinho (5), Bernardo (7), Foden (6), Grealish (7), Jesus (6), Sterling (6).
Subs: Mahrez (7).
Liverpool:Alisson (8), Alexander-Arnold (7), Konate (8), Van Dijk (7), Robertson (7), Fabinho (7), Thiago (8), Keita (8), Diaz (8), Mane (8), Salah (7).
Subs: Henderson (6), Jota (6), Firmino (6), Jones (6).
Man of the match: Sadio Mane
Guardiola had made seven changes from City's Champions League meeting with Atletico Madrid, with Kevin De Bruyne an unused substitute and Kyle Walker unavailable for selection, and his heavily-altered side could not live with Liverpool's first-half intensity.
The opener arrived from a set piece, as Konate rose above Nathan Ake, starting in place of the rested Aymeric Laporte in central defence, to head home Andrew Robertson's corner.
Liverpool then doubled their lead in bizarre circumstances as Steffen dithered in possession following a John Stones backpass, allowing Mane to slide in and tackle him, bundling the ball into the net in the process.
It was a glaring error from the American and he was found wanting again for Liverpool's third goal, when Mane's diagonal volley from Thiago Alcantara's chipped pass, following slick Liverpool approach play, flew into the bottom corner at his near post.
City looked down and out at that point but they emerged from the half-time break determined to give a better account of themselves and they breathed life into the encounter when Jesus set up Grealish for his fifth goal for the club.
The former Aston Villa midfielder took the goal well but Jesus could not match his efficiency in front of goal, twice seeing Alisson deny him after springing the Liverpool offside trap.
Mohamed Salah, back in the Liverpool starting line-up having been named on the bench against Benfica on Wednesday, then spurned a glorious opportunity to kill the tie when he chipped wide following a poor backward header from Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Salah's miss allowed City to keep the contest alive and their second goal arrived when substitute Riyad Mahrez's angled shot was saved by Alisson and fell to the onrushing Silva to fire home from inside the six-yard box.
City had chances to take the game to extra time after that, with Fernandinho blasting wastefully over when unmarked in the Liverpool box and Raheem Sterling shooting straight at Alisson, but Klopp's team held on.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said: "I think it was [one of our best performances]. That was the feeling I had when I saw the first half because of the quality of the opponent.
"We did all the right stuff, we scored in the right moments; we played an incredible game in the first half, I have to say. I loved each second of it.
"To deny them in so many moments is so difficult, as is creating your own opportunities against them. The first half was outstanding in pretty much all parts of the game.
"The second half they scored an early goal, like we did [at the Etihad], and then the game opened up.
"No footballer on the planet is safe against City with a 3-1 lead, it is always clear what they can do.
"We needed Alisson, what a game he had, but we had our moments as well, and could have decided the game earlier.
"We didn't do it, but that made the game even more special, 3-2 was a fair result and it was good enough to bring us to the final."
Pep Guardiola jumped to goalkeeper Zack Steffen following his error for Liverpool's second goal.
He said: "It was an accident. One of the strong points is trying to play [out] and as a keeper he has this quality.
"It was an accident and he will learn for the future. When the ball is there, it can always happen. I have spoken with the team, not him personally, but he is strong."
Guardiola fielded a much-changed side after Kevin de Bruyne and Kyle Walker suffered injuries against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday and claimed Riyad Mahrez and Rodri were the only players on his bench fit enough to actually come on.
"When you play a lot of games, and you continue to do it, always these kinds of situations can happen," he added.
"The game in Madrid was really tough for us. We tried to put energy into the team but sometimes the opponent is good too.
"In the second half we found a goal, which helped us a lot with our momentum. They continued to play at a good level but we had chances and the game was there."
As the Mohamed Salah contract saga rumbles on, it is easy to forget there is another member of Liverpool's attack with only a year remaining on his deal. Sadio Mane surely merits just as much fuss.
This game was the fifth in a row in which Salah has failed to find the net but it matters little when Mane continues to deliver such devastating performances.
The Senegal international, who triumphed over his team-mate at AFCON in February before then helping his country beat Egypt again for a place at the World Cup, followed up his crucial goals against Benfica and in the Premier League against City last weekend with a match-winning double at Wembley.
His first goal rewarded his relentless work rate as he closed down Zack Steffen and bundled the ball into the net, while his second showed sensational technique as he guided a volley into the bottom corner from Thiago Alcantara's lofted pass.
City could not live with him, instead resorting to fouling him five times across the 90 minutes - no player won more free kicks - and he left the field to rapturous applause from the delirious Liverpool fans inside Wembley when he was withdrawn in the closing stages.
His goals kept Liverpool's hopes of a quadruple alive. They were also a reminder that, while he may not attract as much acclaim as his fellow attacker, he is no less influential.
Man City host Brighton in the Premier League on Wednesday at 8pm, while Liverpool host Manchester United on Tuesday at 8pm - live on Sky Sports Premier League.
The FA Cup final will be played on May 14, with Man City/Liverpool facing the winner of the other semi-final between Chelsea and Crystal Palace.