Liverpool secured a memorable 3-0 win on a noisy, intense and joyful night at Anfield.
A number of players put in impressive performances in what was ultimately an almost perfect team effort.
Some contributed directly to the result more than others, but every player played their part. James Nalton was at Anfield to rate them out of ten.
Liverpool 3 – 0 Villarreal
Europa League – Anfield – Thursday 5 May 2016
Goals: Soriano (OG 7′), Sturridge (63′), Lallana (81′)
Simon Mignolet – 6.5
The Belgian was called into action within five minutes, getting down low to save a shot from right back Mario. He had an easier save to make towards the end of the first half from Bakambu.
Other than this he had fairly little to do, and he dealt with anything on the ground in a no-nonsense fashion.
Nathaniel Clyne – 9
The England right-back played a dangerous first-time ball in for the first goal, and was involved down the right shortly before the second.
Clyne is your steady 6/7 out of 10 player, but he surpassed this tonight and his involvement was important at both ends f the pitch.
Dejan Lovren – 8.5
Made a crunching and game defining tackle in the opening quarter of an hour – an intervention which led to a good chance for Lallana from Mlner’s through-ball
Won numerous defensive headers and made 7 clearances in total and, like Toure, made the Villarreal attackers think twice before challenging him.
Kolo Toure – 8.5
Made some good early Interventions on the left covering for Moreno. The 35-year-old used strength and experience to make up for lack of pace.
Was involved in an ongoing battle with Roberto Soldado, and his personal victory was confirmed when the striker was withdrawn with 20-minutes to go.
Both centre backs had quieter nights than they might have been expecting, thanks to the colossus in front of them, but they were still an important part of the win and, more importantly, the clean sheet.
Alberto Moreno – 7
The Spaniard put himself about down the left-hand side, throwing himself at anything which came his way.
Saw a couple of shots fly wide into the Anfield Road end in the second period, and was a useful outlet down the left.
However, he was lucky not to give away a penalty with fifteen minutes to go as he gave Denis Suarez every reason to go down, and the referee every reason to award a penalty.
James Milner – 9
The Liverpool captain played a clever through ball to set up a great chance for Lallana early in the game, and played another defence splitting pass to the same player in the second half, and finished the game with 5 key passes.
He had a good chance at the start of the second half but couldn’t get any power on his left-foot shot, but in general the game was one of his best in a Liverpool shirt and the captains armband suited him on this occasion.
Emre Can – 9
The German midfielder was back in the side following a few weeks out with an injury, but he showed no sign of rustiness or sluggishness.
He played a glorious pass out to Clyne in the build-up to the first goal, and ran the game from the centre of the park.
Can’s presence allowed Milner to have one of his best games for the club, and also provided good protection for the centre backs.
He dropped back even further when his side were ahead, forming a solid base for Liverpool to win the game.
Adam Lallana – 8
Couldn’t get enough contact on Milner’s through-ball which could have made it 2-0 to the Reds within 15-minutes. Had another chance in the second half – again from a Milner pass – which was blocked.
Tidied up well in midfield in both attack and defence, and got a reward for his hard work when he diverted a weak Sturridge shot into the net to seal the game for his side.
Had looked tired at times, even in the first half, but found a second wind late in the game when he pressed well and almost scored a second.
Roberto Firmino – 9
The Brazilian played the return ball in from Clyne’s cross which led to the first goal, set Sturridge up for the second after some quality work on the edge of the area, and a brilliant bit of play down the left wing set up the third.
He was full of ingenuity on a night which needed it, and he also forced a good diving save from Villarreal keeper Aphonse Areola in the second half.
He manages to combine huge work-rate with tricks, flicks, and effectiveness in the opposition box. One particular back-heel around his marker brought cheers from those watching on from The Kop.
Philippe Coutinho – 7.5
Linked up well with his fellow attackers, and despite having a couple his usual ineffective shots from distance he still worried the Villarreal defence with his neat touch and balance.
He was withdrawn with ten minutes to go having put in an admirable shift in and out of possession.
Daniel Sturridge – 9
Proved yet again that he’s one of the best striker in Europe.
Even though the first goal might not be credited to him and will go down as an own goal for Soriano, the fact he was lurking in the box definitely made it happen.
He made sure his name ended up on the score-sheet though, tucking the ball under Areola for Liverpool’s second. He did well to make sure he stayed onside as the Villarreal backline pushed up to challenge Firmino, and even though the keeper got a touch on his shot, the ball hit the inside of the post and trickled in.
Joe Allen (on for Coutinho 82′) – N/A
Offered some energy in attacking midfield areas which helped the team maintain their intense pressing.
Almost got on the score-sheet himself when a deflected Sturridge shot found its way to him, but he couldn’t quite stretch enough to get good contact on the ball.
Christian Benteke (on for Firmino 89′) – N/A
Provided a focal point in the latter stages, and managed to make one
Lucas (on for Sturridge 90+’) – N/A
Brought on with a minute or two to go to waste a bit of time.
Jurgen Klopp – 10
If fans could have voted en masse to decide the team before the game, the starting eleven would probably have been the same as the one Klopp picked.
Two forwards, Can back in the side, and Toure in for Skrtel made for an entertaining night at Anfield.
The team were set up to press intensely from the outset, and in the shape of Milner and Can they had good protection in front of the back four.
The 1-0 deficit from the first-leg looked difficult to overturn, and given that Liverpool had only kept one clean sheet in eleven games prior to this, the away goal seemed inevitable.
But the side scored three goals, kept a clean sheet, and advanced to the Europa League final.
As a manager, you can’t get it much more spot on that this.