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Villarreal 2-3 Liverpool; The Reds produce a sensational second-half comeback to sink stubborn Submarines in the Champions League Semi-Final

Jurgen Klopp’s men have hopped past their immediate hurdle and would now anticipate who they will face in the final

Liverpool rally to knockout Villarreal and keep the quadruple hopes within reach
Liverpool rally to knockout Villarreal and keep the quadruple hopes within reach

Liverpool were unrecognizable in the first half. They conceded two goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin on either side of the half. But they showed why they are in contention for a historic quadruple with a second-half display that sends a message to whoever they get in the final. Villarreal put up a fight and went two-nil up at halftime, but the subs struggled to match their first-half intensity and crumbled under pressure. Luis Diaz was a menace and a game-changer, a right handful that spearheaded a second-half comeback, and Jurgen would not have been happier to have had such an ace up his sleeves. 


With one foot already in the final of the Champions League, Liverpool set out to finish off Villarreal in the second leg of their semi-final tie at La Ceramica. The yellow brick wall came under siege for the entire 90 minutes during the first leg at Anfield. Even though Villarreal got to halftime with their clean sheet intact, Jurgen Klopp’s side ran out 2-0 winners, with the goals coming from a deflection of Jordan Henderson’s cross and Sadio Mane. Unai Emery and his men have certainly upset the odds before, and they would be looking to do so again in sensational fashion.


The hosts set out and started the game with intent. They had a hill to climb but were unfazed by the odds stacked against them. Whatever Unai Emery said to his team before they took to the pitch certainly paid off as the yellow submarines opened the scoring just three minutes into the game. Boulaye Dia turned in a low pass from former Tottenham man Etienne Capoue, and Liverpool were stunned.

It’s not every day you hear that Liverpool struggled to control the game, or they were outplayed and certainly not by today’s opposition, but Villarreal were dominant from the get-go. They stopped Klopp’s men from playing out the back and disrupted their flow. Villa were relentless and almost got a penalty for all their efforts. Gerard Moreno played in Giovanni Lo Celso, who got a touch-in and went down while trying to go round Alisson, but his penalty claims were waved away, and Liverpool cleared their lines.

Four minutes to halftime, and Capoue was at it again. This time, his cross was headed home by former Arsenal man Francis Coquelin, and La Ceramica roared with pride. Goals at the start and finish of the first 45 ensured Emery went into the dressing room as the happier manager. Liverpool were rattled, and Klopp knew something had to change if they were to get back in front in the game. 

Luis Diaz produced a game changing second half substitute display to help the Reds power past resilient Villarreal


Jurgen made a change at HT with Luis Diaz replacing Diogo Jota. Liverpool started the second half in a more recognizable way looking to put themselves back in front. Trent Alexander Arnold floated in a well-weighted freekick, and it missed everyone but Mane, who was lurking at the far post. The Senegalese was not expecting the ball to get to him, and it ricocheted off him and out for a goal kick.  

Arnold came close as he received a short free-kick pass from Thiago and unleashed a ferocious strike. It took a wicked deflection off Coquelin but could not dip enough in time and it rattled the crossbar. 

Liverpool regained control of possession and plotted a comeback. Fabinho pulled one back for the Reds in the game, and put them ahead in the tie in the 62nd minute. He received a pass from Mohammed Salah and rifled home a shot that squirmed through Geronimo Rulli’s legs. Luis Diaz was a menace after coming on as a sub, and he was not far away from extending Liverpool’s lead almost immediately. The Colombian embarked on a mazy dribbling run and got his shot away. It took a slight deflection and drifted narrowly wide.

The former Porto forward finally got his goal when he got on a cross from Arnold and headed past Rulli. The ball went between his legs again. Villarreal struggled to show the same intensity they did in the first half, and the Red scored twice in five minutes to re-establish their dominance. 

If the Reds were stunned in the first half, they certainly did not look like it in the second half as they rattled the submarines. Liverpool completed the comeback when a moment of madness from Rulli allowed Mane to slot in a third goal. Keita lofted a first-time long ball over a ridiculously high Villa backline, and Mane was in a foot race on opposite sides with Rulli, who was hoping to get there first. He did not. Mane snatched the ball, wriggled through a tackle, and calm as you like, he rolled the ball into an empty net. The goal killed the tie, and Villa then played for their pride more than anything else. 

Error after error, the submarines started to implode. As evidence of their complete capitulation, they carelessly lost the ball in their 18-yard area, and Fabinho quickly sought out substitute Curtis Jones. His shot was saved by onrushing Rulli, who was scraping to cover grounds.

On the night where Villarreal lost their undefeated UCL record at home this season in addition to being knocked out, things got even worse in the 86th minute when the man behind the attempted coup, Capoue, received a second yellow for a late tackle on Curtis Jones. Liverpool kept their hopes of a quadruple alive and have only lost once in 29 matches across all competitions. They will now anxiously await who they will face in the final in Paris.


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