In what was meant to be a stepping stone to greatness for the all-conquering Manchester City, the Champions League quarter-final first leg clash with Liverpool at Anfield turned out to be anything but.
A master class from the Reds’ big names saw the home side take an early lead through Mo Salah’s 38th goal of the season before a rocket from former Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made it 2 – 0 after only 20 minutes.
A third from Sadio Mane had the Liverpool faithful in dreamland on the half-hour mark as Jurgen Klopp’s men made the Premier League Champions-elect look more than a little ordinary.
With City pushing to make amends for their uncharacteristically benign endeavours, more of the possession came to the away side in the second half, though sloppy play in the final quarter of the pitch ensured that Pep Guardiola’s side came away from Anfield with something of a mountain to climb when the two sides meet again in less than a weeks time for the return leg at the Etihad Stadium in the blue side of Manchester.
With the crowd in full voice, the famous stands around the hallowed Anfield grounds resonated with the victorious chants of the lion’s share of the 54,000 in attendance.
It was a performance brimming with confidence and the possibility of what might yet be to come. It was to be the perfect night of European football were it not for the worrying sight of Liverpool’s goal-scoring wizard Salah on the ground nursing what looked like a groin complaint a mere handful of minutes into the second half.
Substituted almost immediately, the Egyptian sharpshooter will now be a worrying niggle in the minds of fans ahead of the return leg next Tuesday evening.
Though Klopp has his squad purring, much of the confidence they have nurtured this season has been built on the form of Salah and his goal-scoring prowess.
Were he to miss the contest in Manchester next week, there is no doubt he would be a huge loss to the resurgent Liverpool.
All fans can do now is wait and hope their newly-minted talisman will be fit to do his part and see the Reds into the semi-finals of Europe’s greatest football competition.