65 min: Thaigo and Robertson confuse each other, allowing Jesus to tear off down the right. Jesus fires (I’m not going anywhere near the word ‘cross’, I just can’t) the ball into the mixer. Konate chests down and clears.
58 min: Here’s the full text of that apology issued by a Manchester City spokesperson. “Manchester City are extremely disappointed with the actions of some City supporters during the minute’s silence before today’s game. The club sincerely apologises to all those connected with Liverpool Football Club.”
56 min: Fernandinho comes sliding in at warp speed, flipping Mane into the air like an old sock. It’s a yellow card all day long. He was lucky not to be booked in the first half, so there’s a fair chance he might get hooked soon.
55 min: Jesus springs that trap again, but this time Van Dijk ushers him wide and Alisson blocks out for a corner. Nothing comes of that set piece, either. The next goal so important here. Liverpool suddenly don’t look quite so imperious.
53 min: A free kick for Liverpool out on the right. Alexander-Arnold loops it in. Van Dijk prepares to sidefoot home from six yards, only for Ake to toe out for a corner. A crucial intervention. Nothing comes of the corner. “I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t think Jesus was springing the offside trap until tomorrow.” Austin from Chicago there, because somebody had to. He’s here all week. Try the consecrated bread.
49 min: Shades of Crystal Palace’s fast start to the second half against Liverpool in the 1990 semi? Liverpool fans of a certain vintage will remember that with a shudder. Meanwhile here’s Paul Griffin: “How can anyone watching a sunny FA Cup semi-final decide that they won’t spend sixty seconds reflecting on the deaths of three sisters, three pairs of brothers, a father and his son, a ten year old boy, two expectant fathers, and dozens of teenagers, adults, men and women who went to watch another sunny FA Cup semi final football and didn’t come home? Emetic.”
It’s taken 70 seconds for City to get back into this! Jesus springs the offside trap down the right, holding off Fabinho and rolling across for Grealish, who pearls a shot into the top left from 12 yards. It’s back on!
City get the second half started. No changes. Meanwhile the club have reportedly issued an apology to Liverpool for the actions of some of their fans during the minute’s silence for the victims of Hillsborough.
A depressing line here from the Press Association. “The match was to be preceded by a minute’s silence for the 33rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster but this was cut short by referee Michael Oliver after chants from the City end.”
That speech is going to be even more crucial now. Thiago dinks a one-two with Alexander-Arnold on the edge of the City D, before stroking a pass towards Mane, bombing in from the right. Mane, brimful of confidence, lashes a first-time shot into the bottom right, giving Steffen no chance!
39 min: Fair play to Steffen. Alexander-Arnold rakes a pass down the middle for Salah, who would be clear on goal had the keeper not read the danger, coming well out of his area to control and clear under pressure. That’s some brave work given what happened earlier.
36 min: Salah rolls a pass down the left for Robertson, who initially looks like romping clear into the box. But Cancelo comes across and executes a perfectly timed sliding tackle, even winning the throw. Top-drawer defending.
29 min: Another shaky Alisson clearance, Grealish nearly closing him down, the ball pinging off the City man and inviting a period of pressure. Nothing comes of the phase, but the nerves are showing at both ends.
26 min: Sterling has a run at the Liverpool defence. Diaz and Robertson combine to close down the route. Thiago sashays up the other end and finds Salah on the right. Salah tries to find Mane at the far stick but his cross is intercepted easily by Stones.
This is a complete farce! City stroke it around the back. The ball ends up at the feet of Steffen, on the edge of his six-yard box. Steffen takes a heavy touch. Enough to let Mane slide in and force the ball into the net! An absolute howler by the City keeper!
15 min: Fernandinho takes a free kick in the centre circle, looking for Cancelo down the right. He springs him clear, but the offside flag goes up. City come again, though. A high cross comes in from the right. Foden does well to win a header, stretching every sinew, but he can only send the ball looping into Alisson’s arms.
11 min: Now it’s City’s turn to win a corner, Sterling panicking Van Dijk into a sliced clearance. Foden hits the first man with a poor delivery. Meanwhile red smoke from a flare wafts through the Liverpool box.
Mane skitters down the left and wins a corner. It’s sent into the mixer by Robertson. Konate rises highest on the edge of the six-yard box, miles above Ake, and powers a header into the top left! Three in three for the big defender; the man’s a goal machine.
8 min: Sterling takes Konate on in a foot race down the left. He doesn’t win it, but only because the defender gives him a light shove in the back. No free kick, but this could develop into an interesting duel.
6 min: Stones ships possession cheaply, allowing Mane to scoop a pass into the box for Salah, who can’t quite get the ball under control. Keita tries to keep things going out on the right but Zinchenko and Foden combine to ensure there’s no shot on goal.
4 min: The first shot in anger is taken by Grealish. Fernandinho rakes a diagonal pass towards Cancelo on the right. Cancelo cuts back for Grealish, who hesitates before taking a shot that’s blocked. He should have taken that one first time.
2 min: A high-octane start. Alisson blooters a pass down the right wing. Steffen hoicks another out of play. Alexander-Arnold swishes a ball down the right for Salah, who is miles offside. Plenty of time yet for everyone to find their feet.
The teams are out! Wembley is packed to the rafters, sun shimmering across the hallowed turf, and the place is bouncing. Both sets of supporters are definitely up for the cup. Manchester City wear their sky blue, while Liverpool are all in red. The two best teams in the country are about to face off for a place in the 141st FA Cup final. We’ll be off in a couple of minutes!
Pep Guardiola talks to the BBC … “The team we select is fantastic. We had no alternative. We have incredibly mentally and physically demanding fixtures. There is no other chance to do it. Fresh legs, fresh mentality. This is an important one. Exciting. We don’t choose competitions, we try in every game to do our best.”
… as does Jurgen Klopp. “It’s my seventh season in England and I have said everything in meetings once, twice, three times, four times, but I have never said ‘Welcome to the semi-final of the FA Cup’ [giggles] so I was allowed to say that today. It’s big for us. It is our first chance and hopefully we can use it.”
There’s already a carnival atmosphere at sunny Wembley. Thousands of fans are flocking to the stadium bedecked in blue or resplendent in red, in honour of their heroes. This gentleman has pinned his colours to the mast with an old-fashioned bespoke hat …
… a nod to the days when visitors to Wembley regularly marked the occasion by cobbling together a fancy outfit out of random tat. Yes, Gordon sprang to our mind too.
It’s already been a good day for Manchester City. Lauren Hemp scored twice, with Ellen White and Chloe Kelly also finding the net, as City WFC reached the final of the Women’s FA Cup with a 4-1 rout of West Ham United. Maryam Naz tells the tale.
Both teams make seven changes to the sides named in the Champions League during the week.Manchester City replace Ederson in goal with cup specialist Zack Steffen. Also stepping up: Nathan Ake, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fernandinho, Jack Grealish, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling. Ederson, Aymeric Laporte, Ilkay Gundogan, Riyad Mahrez, Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne drop to the bench. De Bruyne, a fitness doubt having required stitches in his foot, has at least made the bench; Kyle Walker is absent entirely.
Liverpool recall their big guns. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Thiago, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson, Fabinho and Trent Alexander-Arnold are back. Dropping to the bench: Joe Gomez, Kostas Tsimikas, Joel Matip, James Milner, Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino and captain Jordan Henderson.
There’s barely a cigarette paper between them in the Premier League, there’s a fair chance they could meet in the Champions League final, and now Manchester City and Liverpool take each other on in the semi-final of the FA Cup. If this is half as good as last weekend’s showdown in the Premier League, we’ll be doing well, and nobody would mind too much if we get treated to extra time and penalties. Well, maybe both managers and all the players, with both clubs facing a hectic end-of-season schedule, but you can’t please everyone. Kick-off at Wembley is at 3.30pm. It’s on!
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