Liverpool blew away Manchester City to plant one foot in the Champions League semifinals. Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane scored in a 3-0 win that had Jürgen Klopp’s fingerprints all over it.
The tempo was relentless, the pressure absolute and the execution ruthless. Manchester City, the side on the path to smashing all sorts of Premier League records, were chasing shadows from the beginning at Anfield as the hosts kept the pedal to the metal in a stunning first-half performance Klopp described as "close to perfection".
It was a brand of football familiar to Borussia Dortmund fans but one that’s faded from memory of late, as the style that BVB built a global reputation on during Klopp’s reign was tweaked, diluted and finally left to become the anonymous mush it currently is under Peter Stöger.
"We have a lot of things Man City don't like. That's the reality," Klopp said before Wednesday night’s game. "The way we attack the opponent, the way we defend high is unpleasant. If we do that well they will have some difficulty coping with it."
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He was right. Liverpool were electric from the start, Mo Salah taking advantage of some smart work from Roberto Firmino to give them a 13th minute lead before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain lashed home from 20 yards and Sadio Mane took advantage of some woeful marking to give his team a 3-0 lead at the break.
Despite their display on Wednesday, Liverpool are not the finished article. They are still prone to defensive lapses, Loris Karius still has work to do in goal and their central midfield can labor on occasion. But they’re close.
The Reds are set up to win the ball as quickly as possible and get it forward to Mane, Firmino and Salah. It’s simple but often brutally effective. Klopp's style in England is not wildly different to what it was at Dortmund and, as he did at the Signal Iduna Park, he has taken time to hone it and find the players needed to implement his plan.
Salah, who went off injured before the hour mark, has stolen the headlines with his incredible goalscoring feats but Klopp has also improved a number of the Liverpool squad. Firmino has become a consistently threatening number 9, Karius has improved after a shaky start and the previously unheralded Andrew Robertson has become one of the league’s best leftbacks.
That ability to coach and coax improvement from players was also evident at Dortmund, where Ilkay Gündogan, Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski and a handful of others took their careers to the next level.
Klopp is now almost three years in to his job in England and, despite his popularity and the leeway his style of football provides him, he knows that, for a club like Liverpool, trophies will need to follow soon.
His Dortmund days suggest that’s a distinct possibility. His first three years there were spent squad building and coaching before BVB exploded, winning two Bundesliga titles, a German Cup and reaching a Champions League final.
He lost that European final to Bayern Munich and his recent record in showpieces (he’s lost all of the four he’s contested since) is a cause for concern.
Salah’s injury aside, there were few worries on Wednesday. Even when Liverpool took their foot off the gas after the break, City rarely threatened as Klopp extended his winning record over Pep Guardiola. The Spaniard's selection of another central midfielder ahead of Raheem Sterling was a mis-step that suggested a level of anxiety over Klopp’s men.
Now is not the time to be thinking about finals but that time looks like it will come again soon enough for Klopp. The Dortmund fans watching this one on must be pining for the days when they had that feeling.