Date: 13th April 2018 at 7:48am
Written by:

The very late Ped Out Of Europe Report City: 1-2 Liverpool was brought to you by the one, the only, Pedmachine.

It cannot be said that City did not give this a go. Trailing 3-0 from a first leg that could and should have been only 2-1, the Blues faced an uphill task against not only Liverpool but also a set of officials that hold no respect for Guardiola or his players.

Guardiola fielded a perplexing but brave line-up where Walker, Otamendi and Laporte were charged with keeping quiet the Premier League`s most potent front three, while Sterling, Bernardo, De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva and Sane were to provide the guile and pace behind de Jesus.

It was a typically bold statement by Pep, but if we were to enjoy anything like a successful night, surely that should have included Aguero?

But Guardiola`s selection got an immediate reward as a throw from Liverpool keeper Karius put Van Dijk under pressure wide out. He was closed and out-battled by Sterling who delivered a peach of a low cross which found de Jesus, who slotted it past Karius. For a moment the dream was on.

This encouraged City who then dominated the half but were unable to capitalize on their great start. But that wasn`t without trying. The three blind mice masquerading as the refereeing trio in the Liverpool half all missed Robertson cutting down Sterling, all missed Milner trying out as a replacement goalkeeper in a series of play that saw him handle twice and all missed the moment ahead of half time when Milner propelled a ball back towards his own goal which Sane flicked into the net. All three of them drew the conclusion that the German was offside when the laws of Association Football dictate otherwise.

You can however rest assured that it`s Grand National Week in Liverpool because even the fairest of Scousers were blinkered by the outcome and like the incredible losers that were the referees, failed to see the true situation. Had Sane`s goal been allowed it would have been 2-0 seconds before an interval that arrived, unbelievably, with no added time.

Liverpool, in the first half didn`t register a single shot and for once the magnificent Mo Salah had become a stranger to the football.

Guardiola was so incensed with the arbitrational injustices that he found himself sentenced to the stand for the second half.

Despite this, City continued on the front foot despite considerable intimidation. Just like on derby day clear fouls against Liverpool were waved on and the simplest of fouls against City were awarded free kicks. With Firmino already in the book and having just committed a second poor foul which in the Premier League would have ended his evening, Liverpool attacked the City box and the ghost of Christmas past, once again visited. Otamendi got in a mess, Ederson couldn`t assist and the absent Salah got his first sniff of the night and levelled the scores on the night.

This was City`s worst nightmare. Now they needed five to claim the tie. They continued to attack Liverpool who by now had borrowed Jose`s big red bus and it was parked firmly in front of their goal with only Firmino or Mane being the out-ball.

City couldn`t find a way through and found themselves stretched out right when Firmino got in behind Walker, drew out Otamendi who missed the tackle leaving the Brazilian fairly simple task of drilling it into City`s net.

Despite late changes which included the introduction of Aguero, who on one occasion came close, City once again ran out of steam, despite Sane running all night, and were sentenced to their third consecutive defeat.

Readers of the Ped Report will recall that I said after the Everton game that if City were to lose at Anfield, and Guardiola did not get his selection right for the derby and this match, they could find themselves heading for a four match run of defeats and at the moment that looks very likely from where I`m sitting. Tottenham are up next and are playing a decent brand of football right now.

Liverpool`s hat is in the ring for the semi-final draw on Friday and we all know that having successfully seen relative newcomers City and PSG eliminated, the hotballers of Nyon will be lining up Liverpool against Real Madrid, if they get through or Bayern, while Roma will play the other.

Tonight, I though Bernardo was probably City`s best player. He caused problems all night supporting Sterling and almost came up with a goal following an excellent cut inside which saw his precise shot ruffle the feather of Lovren but rebound favorable off the post, rather than into the net.

De Bruyne and Silva tried to keep play flowing. The Silva, Sane combination was particularly penetrative but no one was getting on the end of things quickly enough for City. Bernardo and Sterling, too created problems for Robertson, who is prepared to take a chance and could have handed City two penalties with a clear shove on Sterling and an even clearer foul which the blind man in black on the goal line couldn`t figure out.

I am concerned about life at the back. Otamendi has turned back the clock a year and is once again defending in almost kami-kazi style when more composure is needed and Ederson seems to have forgotten how to actually save anything. Eight goals conceded in three matches tells its own story and It is up to City now to restore their defensive confidence as they prepare to take on Spurs with the protection of the devastating Fernandinho.

Guardiola has looked more and more perplexed by the minute as his charges are failing to fully deliver on his instructions, or they are genuinely tired after a season so-far of intensity. As they move back, now, to the reality of week-to-week football, the Brighton match apart, it is surely the time now to get the Premier League trophy in the bag and allow some of the fatigued footballer’s time off. Victory over Spurs and Swansea will put the season to bed, but I have to say I`m not optimistic about this visit to Wembley.

Is Aguero fit? If so, he must play. But who can we trust in place of Fernandinho who has been, genuinely City`s most valuable player and most consistent, this season. Will it be Gundogan, the victim of some savage criticism, not only from this writer? Will it be Delph or Danilo, will Pep take a chance with one of the young players? We could suspect it is not beyond Pep to play Ederson there and have Bravo back in goal.

In some ways that sums up the, sometimes, mysterious starting line ups that feature in the dreams of the League topmost manager.

Needless to say, dear Susan was delighted, and I reluctantly had to stand defeated, even though she, too, wore the same blinkers as her fellow Liverpudlians in being unable to see the maltreatment of City across the two legs.

We move on and need to get there quick.

 

Your Comment