Last Updated on 4 May 2022 12:39 am (UK Time)
What a crazy night!
What a match and a rollercoaster of emotions!
Many thought that tomorrow’s match (Manchester City vs Real Madrid) would be the rollercoaster, but Jurgen Klopp was right when he said Liverpool were not the clear favorites.
Villarreal fairytale run is over (after defeating former Champions League winners, Juventus and Bayern Munich) and have once again fallen at the semi-final stage to an English side (Arsenal in 2006).
Liverpool continue their golden run of form despite an abysmal first half display that looked like the players had forgotten they were playing for a Champions League final spot, I guess with all the games they have (5 in the next nineteen days) they can be forgiven for having a bad half of football.
As I said at half-time, this is the one half that Liverpool can afford to have, a league game the side could shut up shop and hold out for the win but as Villarreal and Liverpool were level both teams needed a goal to progress.
This played right into Liverpool’s hands as their ill-discipline and lack of focus very much switched with Villarreal quick tempo and high energy. In contrast, Villarreal whimpered in a 12 minute spell where their hopes of a first Champions League and possibly only hope at European football next season vanished.
That being said, the 2020-2021 Europa League Champions have done themselves proud and Unai Emery and many of his players (Juan Foyth, Etienne Capoue, Serge Aurier, Alberto Moreno and Francis Coquelin) have made amendments for their indifferent time in the Premier League .
The Worst Half of Liverpool’s season:
Villarreal started the stronger and Boulaye Dia shocked the six times winners when he scored from close range after Etienne Capoue beat Andrew Robertson to Estupinan’s cross and scuffed a shot into the path of the Frenchmen.
Boulaye Dia (3')
Liverpool looked rocked and continued to gift possession in such an uncharacteristic way and as a result at half-time: had 68% pass completion (their worst for three seasons).
There was another nervy moment for Liverpool as Naby Keita gifted the ball away and Giovanni Lo Celso was played through, Alisson came out to smother the ball and in doing so got the man. It was not given as a penalty by the referee, Danny Makkelie but could easily have been.
Giovanni Lo Celso Penalty shout
Arsene Wenger said at half-time he thought it would not have been overturned (Bein Sports). He also stated he thought Liverpool would come through it, for ever Le Professor.
The goal that had been coming and was reserved for Villarreal came and Robertson was culpable again as he was beaten by Etienne Capoue (commentators mentioned he was playing like Kevin De Bruyne) and former Arsenal man Francis Coquelin outjumped Trent Alexander Arnold at the far post.
Francis Coquelin (41')
This goal levelled the tie at 2-2 and to some extent Liverpool would have been glad to hear the referee whistle’s because they were up against it.
Liverpool had got away with one or two and had not even managed a shot on target in the first half with only 44% possession it was so unlike Jurgen Klopp’s side this season.
However, between now and the end of the season this is the half that Liverpool could afford to have because of the: 2-0 lead: they had already built at Anfield, last Wednesday.
Jurgen Klopp would have had his work cut out for sure in the dressing room but this Liverpool side has shown resilience in more dire straights and there were many including Arsene Wenger who believed they would push through.
Mentality Monsters Turn it around:
Luis Diaz was brought on for Diogo Jota and the Colombian had a huge impact on the left up against Juan Foyth.
There was something about Liverpool in the second half, the way they started oozed confidence, players like Trent Alexander Arnold who had been struggling looked to have found a second wind and the right-back had the best chance of the opening exchanges when his shot deflected off Capoue onto the Villarreal bar.
The Liverpool pressure continued to grow with chances at more regularity, Luis Diaz began toying with Foyth, Thiago began spraying passes in the way that had seen him win man of the match in the first leg and Trent Alexander-Arnold had the freedom of Spain to whip in crosses.
Eventually the pressure paid, Mo Salah collected the ball with his back to goal and played in Fabinho, the Brazilian was one on one against Rulli and shot through the keepers legs to put Liverpool back in front in the tie (3-2). It had taken 62 minutes but Liverpool were back ahead in the tie, having been level for about 20 minutes.
Luis Diaz had a great chance to level the match as he cut in past two defenders only to have his shot deflected off Raul Albiol (Villarreal Captain) and hit the right post.
Just a minute later (67 minutes), the impressive Colombian got his deserved goal as he timed his run perfectly to get on the end of a Trent Alexander Arnold left footed cross, the Colombian was in so much space as his header hit Rulli’s boot but had enough power to go across the line.
Luis Diaz (67')
After a quick VAR check, the goal was confirmed and the intelligence of the run was shown and Liverpool were now heading back to Paris, the same venue that they won the 1981 European Cup: (against Real Madrid, could history repeat itself as Real Madrid play Manchester City tomorrow night, behind 4-3 on aggregate?)
Liverpool’s dominance (4-2 on aggregate) began to tell as Villarreal began to make changes knowing the tie was up, Gerard Moreno and Francis Coquelin were hooked with Chukwueze, the quarter-final hero against Bayern Munich: and Alfonso Pedraza coming on.
Villarreal then started to play much like Liverpool in the first half and were very sloppy, Naby Keita won the ball in midfield and played in Sadio Mane, who had done well to stay in his own half and rounded a rather careless goalkeeper, which allowed him to roll the ball into an empty net. 5-2, Liverpool are heading to their third Champions League final in five years.
With 15 minutes to go, Liverpool were 5-2 up and cruising.
Sadio Mane (74')
With this goal, another record in a season of records was made, as Mane’s second goal of the tie was Liverpool’s 139th goal of the season in all competitions beating the double winning side of 1985-1986.
What had been a really entertaining game was then soured by ultras throwing rubbish onto the pitch in their anger and the persistent fouling, which had been a part of Villarreal’s game (to ask Sadio Mane about his bruises from Raul Albiol), but became worse when the game was lost.
In the last 10 minutes, Curtis Jones, Jordan Henderson and Kostas Tsmikas came on for Naby Keita, Thiago and Andrew Robertson. Villarreal also brought in Trigueros and former Spurs defender Serge Aurier. James Milner also replaced the first Liverpool goal scorer, Fabinho.
Villarreal lost their heads at the end of the game, Pau Torres picked up an unnecessary yellow card for the somewhat targeted Sadio Mane and then Etienne Capoue optimized Villarreal’s evening, two assists in the first half and then sent off in the second with just four minutes to go.
The challenge on Curtis Jones that saw Etienne Capoue being given a second yellow, to go along with his two assists (85')
Liverpool also messed up a six on two at the end but that was inconsequential as the Reds sealed their place in their third final of the season and confirmed to be playing every game that they could possibly have played at the start of the season.
Liverpool reached their 10th Champions league / European Cup Final:
Sadio Mane became the highest scoring African player in the Champions League knockout phase (15 goals), surpassing Didier Drogba and he has the most knockout goals for an English club in the Champions League
Liverpool will either play Manchester City for the first time in a Champions League final (third Champions League match) or Real Madrid for a third time (1981 and 2018, currently 1 and 1)
If Manchester City overcome Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night, the two teams will have played each other four times in one season.
Liverpool will be bitterly disappointed with the way they played in the first half but equally enthused by the second half comeback and momentum swing, Villarreal is a difficult place to go and they have only lost 1 of their last 14 home European matches and Liverpool scored three in 12 minutes to win the match.
Luis Diaz was the real game-changer and brought pace and trickery which put Villarreal on the backfoot and as such he was awarded UCL man of the match.
It was another classic European night for the Redmen, and the away fans will enjoy their journey back knowing many of them will have a trip to Paris for 28th May, on top of the FA Cup final on the 14th May against Chelsea and a titanic league showdown that will no doubt go down to the final day against Manchester City.
As the Liverpool fans say from ‘Paris down to Turkey we have won the lot’, will they win it again in Paris, we will have to wait and see.