After Liverpool sealed their place in the Europa League final with a 3-0 victory over Villarreal, we pick five talking points from a memorable night at Anfield.
The Reds booked their place in another European final after blowing Villarreal away with a fantastic performance.
An own goal from Bruno Soriano after seven minutes in front of the Kop got the Reds off to the perfect start to level the tie at an electric Anfield.
Here are the talking points from another special European night on Merseyside.
Emre Can Commands
It was a huge boost that Can was declared fit to take part at Anfield, and he proved exactly why his return was such a lift with a brilliant midfield display.
With Milner pulling wide to give the German maximum space, Can bossed proceedings from the off, playing a vital part in the opening goal – driving through midfield turning possession to attack, before finding Clyne, whose ball in caused havoc, allowing Liverpool to take the lead.
The 22-year-old held fort in the middle of the park, almost winning the midfield battle on his own, and his defensive strength to constantly win possession – he won the most interceptions and tackles of any Red – denied Villarreal any rhythm, while his power to drive the team on played a huge part in sealing victory.
It was a superb performance from Can, one way beyond his years, and having not played a minute since sustaining injury against Borussia Dortmund, to come straight back and perform like that was simply magnificent.
Relentless Pressing Reaps Rewards
Klopp suggested his side would carry the fight from the off at Anfield, saying pre-match “you cannot go into a game like this and say ‘we will see what happens’ and then react.”
And how Liverpool did, as they chased and harassed their opponents out of the Europa League with a relentless energy and work rate that proved too much for Marcelino’s side to handle.
From the first whistle Liverpool went at the Spaniards, who had no answer to the high-intensity work from Klopp’s men, and it caused all manner of panic throughout the Yellow Submarine defence, who simply buckled under the pressure of the tenacity shown by the Reds.
From Dejan Lovren’s front-footed approach through to Roberto Firmino’s endless running, Liverpool were aggressive in their pressing from the opening minute to the last, with this perhaps the clearest display yet of Klopp’s “full-throttle” football.
Firmino Fires With Dazzling Display
Another huge factor behind Liverpool’s spectacular second-leg turnaround was the display of the fantastic Firmino.
The Brazilian has become a key figure for the Reds under Klopp and he showed his brilliant best in all its glory at Anfield, claiming direct assists for all three goals as he put the visitors to the sword with his skill, touch and intelligence.
The 24-year-old’s skill and flair will always grab the focus – it will again after an exquisite turn just after the second goal – but the tenacity he brings to the attack to press from the front is equally as vital, with his on- and off-ball work both proving too much for the Yellow Submarine.
A brilliant “Scouse Samba” banner displaying Firmino and compatriot Philippe Coutinho was one of many that decorated the Kop pre-match, and the Brazilian delivered in response, playing to his own mesmeric beat.
Sturridge Shows He’s Still the Main Man
The night seemed made for Sturridge to make his mark, even before it was confirmed he would start, and how the 26-year-old did just that.
The striker has endured a difficult time recently – his work rate, relationship with Klopp and commitment to the cause all questioned – but he answered back in the best possible way, helping fire the Reds to the final with his fifth goal in his last seven games in all competitions.
Though at times on the periphery of the action Sturridge’s all-round game was tidy, and his sheer presence brought others to life, while giving Liverpool a fear factor missing in the first leg.
He made this tell as he struck home a trademark cool finish on his favoured left foot to put the Reds ahead in the tie.
The emotional celebration that followed told its own story, with the goal machine making his point that he is still the main man, and though he he proved it on the night, he could have once and for all had he finished the other opportunities that came his way.
Sturridge’s importance to Liverpool remains unrivalled, and he picked the perfect time to prove it.
Power of Anfield Too Much for Villarreal
Klopp issued a rallying cry prior to Thursday’s crucial clash, saying “Anfield is special when we make it special – and that means all of us,” and the home crowd responded with a stunning display of their own.
The vociferous backing started two hours before kick-off in another spectacular pre-match greeting of the team coach on Anfield Road, and that stunning decoration and deafening noise level followed into the stadium, unquestionably contributing to the undoing of the away side.
The Kop’s classics spread around Anfield like wildfire with all sides of the ground playing their part on the night, and the efforts matched that of the team and management as everything Liverpool came together as one.
Marcelino, naively, played down the influence of Anfield’s atmosphere pre-match, saying “in no way whatsoever will we be affected negatively by the atmosphere.”
How sheepish the Villarreal boss must feel after becoming the latest manager to see his side undone by the power of Anfield.