Liverpool have at least a few toes in the Champions League final, after a 2-0 first-leg win over Villarreal that required dominance, doggedness and a deflection.
Liverpool 2-0 Villarreal
Champions League Semi-Final First Leg, Anfield
April 27, 2022
Goals: Estupinan OG 52′, Mane 55′
Alisson – 7 (out of 10)
Nine touches in the first half and about half of those were probably out of pity from the centre-backs trying to keep Ali warm.
Seventy-two minutes was about his first notable contribution as he came out of the box to pass clear.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8
Got into some decent positions high upfield in that frustrating first half, though often checked back onto his left foot and the delivery didn’t come.
After the break he was deeper in open play, and that allowed a few more crosses to be delivered and the likes of Mohamed Salah to have more space to play in, a good tactical tweak from the boss.
Ibrahima Konate – 8
Our recycler at the back for most of the match.
Made two or three superb challenges too, one on the edge of our box in a rare moment when defensive concentration was called upon.
Virgil van Dijk- 7
Booked for being very, very difficult to run straight through the middle of.
Almost scored from about 300 yards out too, with most of the rest of his game about simple passes to keep the pressure on.
Andy Robertson – 7
Started well with some energetic runs and keeping the width high, but that seemed to disappear quite quickly.
Always available in support, often in place to tackle high upfield and never beaten one on one.
Fabinho – 8
First half was more like Fab vs. City in the league, with some missed passes and challenges alike.
Netted after the restart only for an offside in the buildup to deny him.
Much improved in the second half as he upped the tempo, won more challenges and covered the ground in the way he does better than anyone else.
Jordan Henderson – 7
Energetic and annoyed for most of the first half, lambasting the ref, his team-mates, Pervis Estupinan and Dani Parejo.
Most of them were being very irritating in fairness, but the skipper needed to keep his cool more.
Those half-time oranges clearly did exactly that, as Hendo whipped the cross in which flicked off the left-back and into the net.
Thiago Alcantara- 9 – Man of the Match
Absolute thunderbastard off the upright in a similar vein to Carragher vs. QPR all those many moons ago.
A joy to watch again with his switches, his ability to shift opponents out of the way and his constant capacity to dictate play.
Put simply, he’s one of the players we need most in every big game for the rest of the season.
Mohamed Salah – 8
Clipped a gorgeous ball over for Mane early on then twice sent strikes off target himself.
Did claim an assist after the restart with his neat through ball.
No goals this time for Mo, but he was a big player in the buildup, the press and the fear factor down that side of the pitch.
Sadio Mane – 8
Three close calls in the first half but none quite saw Sadio looking set to produce the clinical finish required.
That changed after the restart as his turn and timing were perfect, with the No. 10 adding goal number two on the stretch.
Luis Diaz – 9
So good in one-on-ones, a couple of times almost opened up Villarreal with his check-in-and-shoot routine and produced some decent tracking back to win possession too.
Almost scored at least two and could have had an assist on another day too. Brilliant all-round showing.
Diogo Jota (on for Mane, 71′) – 7 – Pleasingly annoying to their defenders.
Naby Keita (on for Henderson, 71′) – 6 – Bit quiet but kept it all ticking.
Joe Gomez (on for Alexander-Arnold, 80′) – N/A – Ten minutes at right-back.
Divock Origi (on for Diaz, 80′) – N/A – Very well received by the Kop!
Subs not used: Adrian, Kelleher, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino, Matip, Williams, Elliott
Jurgen Klopp – 8
Went big with his lineup, giving his skipper, Diaz and Konate the nod in the three positions which are being regularly rotated.
The boss was pretty calm in the first half as we dominated without finding the breakthrough – very like against Everton – and it was probably a similar message in the dressing room at half-time as a result.
Decent subs as well, kept the energy levels high and made sure Villarreal could never really enjoy any spells of possession or pressure thanks to our relentless press and great shape.
Good night overall for the Reds and the boss.