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 By Dave Usher

Anfield power packs a punch as Liverpool storm all over Man City

Where Wednesday night's 3-0 Champions League win over Manchester City ranks in the list of great European nights at Anfield will only be determined by how far Jurgen Klopp's side go in the competition, but for now Liverpool supporters are revelling in the glory of a stunning performance from their team.

Despite their significant lead there is still plenty of work to be done to get through this particular tie, but the Reds have given themselves a great chance of reaching the last four and, as widely predicted, their fans more than played their part in helping them achieve a result few had thought possible.

Talk of the Anfield atmosphere must be incredibly tiresome to those whose allegiance is not with Liverpool. Every time a big European night rolls around they hear the same old cliches about "Anfield under the lights", "the magic of European nights" and "the power of Anfield".

Liverpool supporters positively revel in it, but for others it can be vomit-inducing. It's unquestionably irritating to supporters of Liverpool's rivals and probably just as irksome and tedious to football supporters in general. One thing it is not, though, is overstated.

In the build-up to this game, that's what City's fans were suggesting, and they were backed up by their local press.

This is nothing Liverpool haven't seen before. In 2008, Spanish paper Marca infamously ran a front-page headline that stated: "This is Anfield ... and what?" They soon found out, as Real Madrid's star-studded lineup were thumped 4-0. The Manchester Evening News were similarly dismissive ahead of this tie, albeit nowhere near as provocative.

The point they didn't seem to be able to grasp was that it doesn't matter that City have played away at Napoli and Celtic, or that some of their players have played in the wildest atmospheres in South American football. It's not the same thing.

There are undoubtedly more "hostile" venues in world football, but hostility isn't what makes the seemingly impossible happen so often at Anfield. Footballers can deal with hostile. It's a combination of all different things that makes Anfield special, not least history. The place has a track record of producing nights such as this. It can't be fully explained, it's just how it is.

Liverpool will not play at Anfield on any weekend prior to a Champions League group stage game.
Anfield was at its raucous best on Wednesday night as Liverpool trounced Manchester City.

Even those who have experienced it before do not have an advantage. Just ask Ilkay Gundogan, who was part of the Dortmund side who conceded three goals in the last 20 minutes in front of a baying Kop in 2016. The first time anybody even noticed him on Wednesday night was when he was substituted.

Knowing what to expect is not the same as being able to handle it. City were undoubtedly affected by the atmosphere and sense of occasion. By the time they had come to terms with it they were 3-0 down.

There's a line from Bruce Willis in "Pulp Fiction" that goes: "That's how you're gonna beat 'em, Butch. They keep underestimating you". That's how Liverpool must feel when they hear the opposition play down the advantage Anfield gives them.

The point that most seem to miss is that it isn't just about what Anfield does to the opposition players. That's part of it, but much more significant is the effect it has on Liverpool's players. Time and again they have been able to defeat superior opposition because the electricity of Anfield has lifted Liverpool's players to levels above and beyond what many thought they were capable of.

For example, Trent Alexander-Arnold is a 19-year-old kid who in recent weeks has been found wanting in defensive situations against Manchester United and Crystal Palace. Marcus Rashford and Wilfried Zaha both gave him a difficult time and while both are fine players, Leroy Sane is a cut above. In fact, Sane is arguably the best natural winger in world football right now.

Of course Liverpool have Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, but neither are used as traditional wingers in the way Sane is. In an era where many coaches (including Klopp) like to invert their wide players and have them come inside on to their stronger foot, Sane is a throwback to the days when wingers would "get chalk on their boots". He's perhaps the best out-and-out left winger seen on these shores since the heyday of John Barnes.

Going into the game most saw Alexander-Arnold as a weak link. City clearly did as their gameplan was obvious; they fed Sane at every opportunity and continued to do so right up until the end of the game.

Sane had one or two threatening moments but for the most part he was completely shut down by the inspired teenager, who produced the best performance of his career on the biggest occasion of his life. That isn't a coincidence.

It isn't just young players who can be lifted by Anfield either. James Milner has played an awful lot of games in his long and distinguished career but it's doubtful he's ever had a better one than he had on Wednesday night.

Liverpool's official website published a 48 second video compilation after the game featuring only Milner's tackles. Nothing else, just tackles! The controlled ferocity in Milner's performance was as big a factor in Liverpool's win as anything else. All three goals originated with him either winning the ball or playing a pass.

Some of the biggest clubs in Europe and some of the best players in world football have failed to perform at Anfield but it isn't just because of the crowd. If Liverpool's players don't perform then it doesn't matter how loud, hostile and supportive the fans are. It's a two way street and both the crowd and the team need to feed off each other.

When that happens Liverpool can be unstoppable. If they can see the job through next week, then no-one will relish a trip to Merseyside for a semifinal.

Dave Usher is one of ESPN's Liverpool bloggers and the founder of LFC fanzine and website The Liverpool Way. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.


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