Last weekend saw the FA Cup Semi-Finalround fixtures featuring Chelsea Vs Crystal Palace, with Chelsea running out 2-0 winners, and Manchester City Vs Liverpool (again). In what could be a crazy run of fixtures between Manchester City and Liverpool, many honors have hung in the balance. This season they have played each other twice in the league drawing 2-2 both times, they played in the FA Cup Semi-Final where Liverpool came out on top winning 3-2 to advance to the final, and with both teams currently leading their Champions League Semi-Final, we COULD see them play again in the Champions League Final.
Although all the headlines were stolen by Zack Steffen of Maryland, USA. A really poor first-half performance put Manchester City on the back foot. His biggest blunder was his mistake for the second goal. We’ll get to that in a moment though as we break things down. It has been an incredibly close season and with the two teams battling on all fronts, the title race could be settled by a SINGLE POINT. Either team could have been in the FA Cup Final, both teams fighting for the Champions League and of course, Liverpool have already won the League Cup.
Thankfully for City, Gabriel Jesus has found his shooting boots just in time for the run-in and the Champions League Semi-Finals. Source: UEFA
Before we get into it however it’s worth mentioning that these intensely close seasons between a constantly improving Liverpool team and a Manchester City side hungry to remain the best AND finally win their first European title have been incredible to watch for the neutral. It’s quite likely they’ve increased profits for TV companies, sponsors, and the bookmakers also. Given the interest grows year on year in this exciting battle.
If you’re looking to make a quick buck it’s very hard to bet against Liverpool and Manchester City right now, both of them are looking incredible, and honestly, it’s almost impossible to predict who wins in the head to heads. As I said they’ve played 3 times so far this season with 2 draws and a win for Liverpool. As things stand both teams have 1 foot in the Champions League final after winning their respective first legs.
Any interest in sports betting for Maryland players on the second legs I think Liverpool is a safe bet for a win in Spain, but can I say the same for Manchester City? I’m honestly not sure. I can see them drawing abroad which takes them through. All English Champions League finals again? Could you even bring yourself to bet on such a close rivalry?
Back to Zack Steffen, with the Qatar World Cup in December, he will have been hoping to take his chance on the big stage, lining up at Wembley to impress Gregg Berhalter and while it’s somewhat fair to say he’s still probably going to the World Cup, his performance in this Semi-Final was nothing to shout home about, in fact, he’s likely going to want to forget about his performance for the rest of his life.
Steffen conceded 3 goals in the first half at Wembley, one from Ibrahima Konaté in the 9th minute and two from Sadio Mané in the 17th and 45th minutes. Time to break it down goal by goal. First, Liverpool wins a corner, there’s a lovely ball floated in by Andy Robertson. Konate does well to get clear of his marker and gets a solid connection on the header, but it’s RIGHT AT Steffen and he probably should do better, but he doesn’t and Liverpool found themselves in the lead, 1-0. Moving quickly on to the pièce de résistance.
Now… The next goal is nothing short of abysmal. In the 17th minute, the ball is played back to Zack Steffen and he thinks he has more time, but he is IMMEDIATELY closed down by Sadio Mané. Mané slides in and takes the ball away from Steffen’s feet and there’s nowhere for the ball to go but between the sticks. Liverpool finds itself 2-0 up after only SEVENTEEN minutes.
See, this is particularly troubling for a few reasons for me, Liverpool fans found it hilarious, and rightly so, but if you’re a Manchester City fan or the United States Men’s National Team fan, or worse, both. Then you’ve got to be looking at this in disbelief. It shows EITHER a complete lack of awareness and game sense, OR it shows overconfidence and that he was undermining the ability of his opponents. For City fans knowing Zack Steffen is your backup goalkeeper and this is what you’re getting in case Ederson is injured or tired, can’t fill you with confidence, and as a USMNT fan knowing this is the keeper that is going to the world cup can’t be great.
Specifically in the case of being a USMNT follower for the upcoming Qatar World Cup in December, knowing you’re going to be facing an England team with Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling as well as the winner of, erm, Scotland Vs Ukraine THEN Wales Vs the winner of that. So potentially a team featuring a version of Gareth Bale that ACTUALLY enjoys his football? Yeah, not the most appealing World Cup group, though they’ll walk all over Iran won’t they?
A dejected Zack Steffen after his mistakes against Liverpool in the FA Cup Semi Final. Source: Manchester Evening News
Anyway. Back to the FA Cup, these mistakes set the tone of the game for Manchester City, they found themselves 3-0 down at half-time with Mané netting a 3rd just before the break. For this one, I can SORT of give Steffen the benefit of the doubt. The ball is played across to Mané who slashes at it, hitting the ball with the outside of his boot and curling it in near post. Should Steffen do better? Maybe, but the way Mané shapes his body it looks like he’s putting his full foot through the ball. Still, getting beat near the post isn’t a great look, especially after the previous mistakes.
City tried to mount a comeback but could only muster 2 goals, they ended up going out 3 – 2 sending Liverpool to the final. Not a great return on the season so far for Manchester City, who quite often end up in the League Cup final if not winning the League Cup, which was won by Liverpool this season, they aren’t going to lift the FA Cup. It’s LIKELY they’ll win the League unless they slip up in the run-in as they remain 1 point ahead of Liverpool. Can they win the Champions League? Time will tell, but a potential 4 trophy season for City has ended up with only 2 bits of silverware left to play for and they have a TOUGH second leg in Madrid, where they lead 4-3 but the Bernabeu is a different beast isn’t it?
That’s going to do it for this one, I think it’s safe to say Zack Steffen had better get his head down and start putting in even more hard work between now and the World Cup. It’s hard for anybody to mentally recover from big mistakes, let alone a sequence of them in one game. But he has the right teams behind him to help him get back on track. He’s lucky however that for both the USMNT and Manchester City he has teams FULL of talent to help back him up. Until next time, take care folks.