Villarreal 1-0 Liverpool
Europa League – El Madrigal – Thursday 28th April 2016
Goals: Adrian (90)
Christian Benteke was back on the bench following injury, as Liverpool looked to gain a positive result in eastern Spain.
Villarreal made a strong start to the game, showing exactly why they are going to be a tough team to overcome over the two legs.
Joe Allen missed a glorious chance with just four minutes on the clock, with the Welshman’s side-footed effort straight at Sergio Asenjo.
Former Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado fired narrowly wide shortly after, as Marcelino’s side continued to threaten.
Lucas and Lallana both shot wide from distance, and there were signs that the Reds were beginning to settle into the match.
Coutinho shot harmlessly into the crowd just before half-time, and Soldado then curled a superb effort inches wide of Mignolet’s goal.
It was the final moment of note in a tight opening 45 minutes.
Jordon Ibe replaced Coutinho at half-time, which came as a surprise to many. The Brazilian was taken off because of feeling unwell.
Bakambu’s header hit the post almost immediately after the restart, as the hosts looked for that all important opening goal at El Madrigal.
The first 15 minutes of the half went by without too much of note, with Coutinho’s exit from proceedings affecting Liverpool‘s creativity a little.
Firmino fired a strike off the post after 65 minutes, and it was the closest the Reds had come to grabbing a vital away goal.
Lallana was then wrongly adjudged to have been offside when racing clean-through on goal, which could prove a key moment in the overall tie.
Mignolet was forced into a fantastic save in the dying minutes, diving full-stretch to deny Bakumbu from close-range. Alberto Moreno then raced through from the halfway line, but shot high and wide.
It was a devastating end to the game, and it now makes the Reds’ task far harder at Anfield next Thursday.
TIA Man of the Match: Kolo Toure
Villarreal: Asensio, Mario, Bailly (Musacchio 76′), Víctor Ruiz, Jaume Costa, Pina, Bruno, Dos Santos (Castillejo 72′), Denis Suárez, Soldado (Lopez 74′), Bakambu.
Subs not used: Areola, Samu, Trigueros, Rukavina.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Toure, Lovren, Moreno, Lucas, Allen, Milner, Lallana, Coutinho (Ibe 46′), Firmino (Benteke 89′).
Subs not used: Ward, Sturridge, Skrtel, Smith, Chirivella.
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN)
Up next: The Reds take on Swansea at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday (12pm GMT), before hosting Villarreal in Thursday’s Europa League semi-final second-leg (8:05pm).