MAN CITY 3, LIVERPOOL 2
Manchester City knocked out Carabao Cup holders Liverpool to claim their quarter-final place following an epic last 16 tie at the Etihad.
There was little sign of rustiness after a break of more than five weeks because of the World Cup as both sides fought toe-to-toe in a tie that was played at a relentless and ferocious pace throughout.
City were twice pegged back as Liverpool, unbeaten in their five previous competitive games against City, displayed a never-say-die spirit before centre-back Nathan Ake struck the decisive blow to set up a last-eight tie at Southampton.
Earlier City had taken the lead through goal machine Erling Haaland before Fabio Carvalho equalised for Liverpool.
Riyad Mahrez put City back in front early in the second period before Liverpool immediately struck back through Mohamed Salah.Embed from Getty Images
City manager Pep Guardiola was pleased with his side’s display explaining they were the better side for long periods.
He said: “After the World Cup and a long time without playing, both teams played at an incredibly high level of intensity. Liverpool are so difficult. When they play good, they can destroy you.
“It was a good game and an entertaining game. A big compliment to the players for how they played.”
Guardiola praised 18-year-old right back Rico Lewis describing him as the player of the match.
“He will be an incredible player, so intelligent, humble and he understands things you tell him in one second,” he said.
“He has played good before, but not against a team like Liverpool. He is 18 years old, and he was outstanding and my man of the match. We are incredibly lucky to have this player for the next decade.”
Ake spoke of the challenges of returning after the World Cup break, explaining: “The last week has been a bit strange, people coming back at different times then straight into having to play an intense game against Liverpool and it’s not easy.
“You’ve been away for a month and the national team is different, then suddenly you are straight back in it. Strange but good, as a player you want to be involved in major tournaments like that.
“We should’ve done better with the goals, but we manged to score more than them. There are things to improve but for the first game back it was good. It was another top, top ball from Kevin [De Bruyne] and I had to score that one.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp took positives from the defeat, explaining: “It was a spectacular game for the early stages and high in intensity.
“There was a lot to take from the game, though not the result against the best team in the world.
“There is a lot of space for improvement. We should have defended better for all three goals, especially the third when we were not switched on.
“We could have scored more, though City had more chances than us.”
Haaland started for City as did Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan.
Julian Alvarez, a World Cup winner with Argentina, is on an extended period of time off and also won’t play in the Boxing Day match against Leeds.
There was a host of World Cup players on the bench, including England quartet Kyle Walker, John Stones, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden.
Salah, Darwin Nunez and Andy Robertson were among the big names in the Liverpool starting 11.
Roberto Firmino was out with a calf injury that he sustained in training while Luis Diaz (knee) and Diogo Jota (calf) were also still unavailable.
Goalkeeper Alisson and defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk have also not been included in the squad after being at the World Cup with their countries.
There was an electrifying start as each side had a goal attempt in the opening minute.
Haaland fired over and wide for City inside 20 seconds while Nunez’ effort was deflected by Aymeric Laporte for a corner.
Haaland then turned provider setting up Cole Palmer who shot horribly wide from eight yards when he looked certain to find the net.
After an incredibly open start, it was no surprise that there was soon a goal, and it came from Haaland with his 24th of the season.
City broke down the left and De Bruyne delivered a low cross as Haaland got in front of Joe Gomez to fire home from eight yards, a clinical finish from the predator.
Liverpool fired a warning shot when Nunez struck an upright, though he was flagged for a clear offside.
They equalised in the 20th minute following a break down the right which ended with James Milner squaring a pass to Carvalho who slotted home a low shot from 14 yards. It was the Portuguese’s third goal since his summer move from Fulham.
City would have regained the lead but for two important saves on quick succession from Caoimhin Kelleher to deny Ilkay Gundogan and Nathan Ake.
Liverpool also had two great chances to move ahead but Nunez twice shot wide of the far post from the right of the penalty area as the opening half finished all square.
There was an explosive start to the second period, two goals inside three minutes.
City regained the lead when Gundogan’s great cross-field pass released Mahrez on the right on the box as he cut inside Robertson and fired low into the far corner, his fifth of the season.
Home fans were still jubilant when Liverpool drew level 80 seconds later. Nunez broke on the left and his low cross was converted by Salah from 14 yards for goal 15 of another productive campaign.
City went ahead for a third time just short of the hour when Ake headed home at the far post from six yards following a pinpoint cross by De Bruyne. What an opportune moment to open his account for the season.
Liverpool had already made four changes before City’s first when Stones replaced Manuel Akanji on the hour.
Nunez had another great chance with 18 minutes left when he broke clear only to pull his shot wide, his third glaring miss of the night.
That was followed by a double switch as Haaland and Palmer were replaced by Foden and Grealish.
City almost put the game to bed in the 84th minute when De Bruyne’s goalbound shot was blocked by Fabinho and Foden’s follow up was well kept out by Kelleher.
There was an enforced fourth City change when Gundogan limped off to be replaced by Bernardo Silva.
City managed the latter stages well as Liverpool never seriously threatened a leveller to force a penalty shootout decider.