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Quadruple Dreams End At Old Trafford

A defeat that will live long in the memory, not least due to the nature of it, as Liverpool twice threw away a lead and finally saw their quadruple hopes dashed in the 120th minute. In a 4-3 FA Cup classic at Old Trafford, Liverpool ultimately paid the price for failing to kill a game they were largely in charge of, and for retreating behind the ball in the closing stages of the first 90 minutes.

Manchester United initially went in front, and Liverpool, who began without sufficient intensity, could so easily have been further behind in the opening 15 minutes. Only poor decision-making, and some smart stops from Kelleher, prevented United from adding to McTominay’s early header. Yet, the Old Trafford outfit couldn’t maintain their dominance and, with Liverpool’s midfield finally controlling the game, Alexis Mac Allister’s deflected effort drew them level. Minutes later Mo Salah, who looked way off the pace of the game throughout, put his side in front with a right-footed strike that found the net from close range, courtesy of the inside of the post.

The second half began as the first half had ended, with Liverpool dominating the game. It looked like it was merely a matter of time before they’d stretch their lead. However, profligacy in front of the goal, and some quite shocking decision-making, not least when they bore down on goal, five against two meant United were never quite out of it. Even with fresh legs, which included Salah and Dominik Szoboszlai being replaced, Liverpool couldn’t quite get the all-important third. As they retreated, conceded possession and sought to get over the line, it was Antony who dragged United back into the game with just minutes left.

So having led for almost 45 minutes, Liverpool had to go again in extra time. Yet, their failure to retain possession and control, which inevitably led to giving up the lead, continued in the added 30 minutes. They somehow forgot to actually play football. They also once again failed to take numerical advantage in attack and, when Harvey Elliot saw his deflected effort hit the back of the net after 105 minutes of football, it was somewhat against the run of play.

There was though, another twist in this action-packed game, as Rashford, himself so often wasteful in attack, who taking advantage of a truly awful cross-field pass from Darwin Nunez, drew United level once again. This time he beat Kelleher with ease and penalty kicks seemed inevitable, but there was more to come.

Elliot, who just 15 minutes earlier was Liverpool’s hero, lost possession on the edge of United’s penalty box following a Liverpool corner. Having left just Conor Bradley on the halfway line, Jurgen Klopp watched on as his side saw United do what his own players so uncharacteristically failed to do, and make a counter-attack count. Substitute Diallo finished the move with a left-foot strike into the far corner of the net.

Liverpool only had themselves to blame for this defeat. They lacked the clinical finishing so often associated with them this season and, with another visit to Old Trafford in April, will need to be more successful if they are to maintain their title challenge. Of course, a Europa League final in Dublin is still a distinct possibility and having already secured the League Cup, a stellar season may still be on the horizon. This defeat though, to their biggest rivals, will hurt and will hurt for some time. Let’s hope the result will be to galvanise them for Klopp’s final two months in charge.

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