Liverpool put one foot firmly in the Champions League final as they fought to a 2-0 victory over Villarreal at Anfield, with the return leg to come next week.
Liverpool 2-0 Villarreal
Champions League Semi-Final First Leg, Anfield
April 27, 2022
Estupinan OG 53′ (assist – Henderson)
Mane 55′ (assist – Salah)
With both sets of fans stirring up the atmosphere, the first leg of the Champions League semi-final kicked off as expected, with Villarreal sitting in and Liverpool striving for openings.
Sadio Mane saw the two best chances of the opening stages fall for him, but they both did so awkwardly, with Mohamed Salah’s improvised cross just falling short of a comfortable header for the No. 10.
Luis Diaz was arguably the main threat on the left, and twice the Colombian tested a shaky Geronimo Rulli from range, with the goalkeeper opting to parry into danger both times.
A deflected volley from Mane went just wide, while Salah continued to find his openings snuffed out.
The closest Liverpool came in the first half, however, saw Thiago hammer a long-range strike that left Rulli rooted, only to cannon out of play via the outside of the post.
HT: Liverpool 0-0 Villarreal
Liverpool kept up the relentless energy after the break, and felt they had got the opener within five minutes of the restart, but as Fabinho blasted into the back of the net the linesman flagged to rule it out for a Virgil van Dijk offside.
A wonderful flowing move led to a fortuitous goal soon after, with Thiago the mastermind again as the ball eventually found its way out to Jordan Henderson, whose cross was deflected over Rulli by left-back Pervis Estupinan.
Quick as a flash and Liverpool were 2-0 up, with another brilliant passage of play seeing Salah squeeze it though for Mane, who prodded past Rulli to double the lead.
The control allowed Klopp to make changes, including another outing for Divock Origi, but Liverpool looked largely content with holding on to the result ahead of the trip to El Madrigal on Tuesday.
TIA Man of the Match: Thiago
Referee: Szymon Marciniak (POL)
Subs not used: Adrian, Kelleher, Matip, Williams, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Elliott, Minamino
Villarreal: Rulli; Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Estupinan (Trigueros 72′); Chukwueze (Dia 72′), Parejo (Aurier 72′), Capoue, Coquelin; Lo Celso; Danjuma (Alcacer 86′)
Subs not used: Asenjo, Jorgensen, Gaspar, Iborra, Pena, Mandi, Gomez, Pedraza