Red rage engulfs city

From top: Mohamed Salah rifling home Liverpool's first goal past the reach of Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson. The Egyptian was a scourge to City, but had to be withdrawn in the second half owing to a groin injury. Before the game, Liverpool fans
Above: Mohamed Salah rifling home Liverpool's first goal past the reach of Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson. The Egyptian was a scourge to City, but had to be withdrawn in the second half owing to a groin injury. Before the game, Liverpool fans set off flares and threw missiles at the City team bus making its way to Anfield.PHOTO: REUTERS
From top: Mohamed Salah rifling home Liverpool's first goal past the reach of Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson. The Egyptian was a scourge to City, but had to be withdrawn in the second half owing to a groin injury. Before the game, Liverpool fans
Mohamed Salah rifling home Liverpool's first goal past the reach of Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson. The Egyptian was a scourge to City, but had to be withdrawn in the second half owing to a groin injury. Above: Before the game, Liverpool fans set off flares and threw missiles at the City team bus making its way to Anfield.PHOTOS: REUTERS

Premier League leaders overwhelmed on and off the pitch by Liverpool and bus attack

LIVERPOOL • The Liverpool fans had started arriving in the late afternoon, three hours before Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final, first leg kick-off.

They filled every spare inch of space they could find. And when there was no room left, they clambered up traffic signal poles and scurried onto walls.

A little more than an hour before the opening whistle, their moment came. Manchester City's team bus turned the corner and began its slow procession towards Anfield, guarded by mounted police.

Flares were set off as thick red smoke clogged the air. Firecrackers exploded. Pyrotechnics sputtered into life, their sodium light cutting through the fog.

Bottles and beer cans flew, a handful clattering off the sides of the bus. And from the top of the traffic signals and the walls came a wave of sound, a war cry.

Pep Guardiola's City is not yet as emotionally wedded to the Champions League as Liverpool is. It does not have the weight of history in European football behind it.

It has not yet accrued immunity to the high-stakes hostility, that this competition can generate, in certain places at least.

Correlation is not causation, but it would be foolish to separate the atmosphere from the outcome after City, the best team in England, crumbled 3-0, swept aside by Liverpool in a breathtaking first half and then resisted in the second.

  • 0 Manchester City's shots on target. The last time they fired blanks was against Manchester United in the League Cup on Oct 26, 2016.

  • 7 Assists by James Milner, one of three players with at least seven in a Champions League season. The others are Neymar (eight for Barcelona in 2016-17) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (seven for Paris Saint-Germain in 2012-13) .

Guardiola, who had been warned about the hostile reception his side would receive in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday, queried after his side's defeat why more protection was not offered.

He also suggested more protection should be given to team buses in general with this incident coming a year after a bomb attack on Borussia Dortmund's bus ahead of their Champions League quarter-final against Monaco. That attack left then Dortmund defender Marc Bartra with a fractured wrist and a police officer with hearing loss.

"Normally when the police know that is going to happen, they try to avoid it happening. I did not expect that from the Liverpool side, from the people," the Spaniard said.

"One year ago, something happened in Dortmund," he said, referring to the attack in Germany. "We come here to play football and I don't understand this kind of situation... I didn't expect that a club as prestigious as Liverpool would do these kind of things."

City had earlier expressed concern about the risk of disobedience but rather than cancel the "coach welcome", Merseyside Police decided to re-route it, in the hope of controlling it. It did not work.

The projectiles did enough damage to the bus for City to call for a replacement for the journey home, with the driver's door reportedly smashed and windows broken.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp apologised post-match for the incident while the club also released a condemnatory statement, with Merseyside Police launching an investigation to find the culprits of what they described as "appalling" behaviour. The club were charged by Uefa yesterday with setting off fireworks, throwing objects, acts of damage and crowd disturbances.

The case will be dealt with by the European football governing body's Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body on May 31, meaning any sanctions will only take place next season.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NY TIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2018, with the headline 'Red rage engulfs city'. Print Edition | Subscribe