The first half of Tuesday’s game against Manchester City is not one that Liverpool fans are likely to want to add to the highlight reel. With City already behind by three goals, they came out flying, scoring in the second minute and looking threatening all the way until the end. More than a few Liverpool fans likely found their fingernails bitten down to stubs by the time the referee blew the halftime whistle.
The second half, however, things changed. Liverpool came out with a renewed sense of purpose, and Mohamed Salah finally bagged his obligatory goal in the 56th minute, effectively putting the tie away.
After the game, James Milner, sporting the captain’s armband for the day, talked about what changed in the dressing room before that pivotal last 45 minutes.
“We obviously wanted to improve,” Milner explained. “We didn’t get high enough, didn’t get the pressure on them and that’s as a team, everyone together, so I thought we did that, we got about them a bit more second half.
“We kept the ball slightly better and were a bit more composed at times, but we defended well again and that’s the key and what you’re always going to have to do against these sort of teams.
“It was [a nervy first half]. They’re a good team, they’re always going to put you under pressure, we knew that. We couldn’t get out, we needed to be higher and put a bit more pressure on - if you give good players time on the ball, they’re going to hurt you and they had chances. But I think it shows a lot how we came out second half and went again, put in that performance and got the result.”
Despite the early misstep from van Dijk to concede the goal, Liverpool were able defend well against a fierce Manchester City attack over both legs. Considering how much of a problem the defense has been in the past, that in itself is something for Liverpool fans to cheer about. One fluke goal allowed over 180 minutes against one of the best teams in Europe is impressive, and must serve as a warning to the other teams remaining in this competition.