Liverpool fought back from a dreadful first half to not only win 3-2 on the night, but beat Villarreal 5-2 on aggregate and reach the Champions League final.
Villarreal 2-3 Liverpool
Champions League Semi-Final Second Leg, El Madrigal
May 3, 2022
Fabinho 62′ (assist – Salah)
Diaz 67′ (assist – Alexander-Arnold)
Mane 74′ (assist – Keita)
Before kickoff in Spain, Jurgen Klopp was at pains to stress that Liverpool would not underestimate their opponents despite holding a 2-0 lead, but it was a sloppy start from the favourites.
A calamity of slack defending saw Villarreal whip the ball from flank to flank, before a lofted ball was cut back by Etienne Capoue for a third-minute goal for Boulaye Dia.
An awful pass from Keita led to a break for Villarreal, and with Giovani Lo Celso through for a one-on-one he was thwarted by Alisson, and though penalty protests were waved away it was another warning for Liverpool’s No. 8.
Villarreal were 2-0 up before the break, with Capoue again provider as he touched down a long ball and crossed for Francis Coquelin to head in, with Trent Alexander-Arnold awful in his half-arsed marking.
HT: Villarreal 2-0 Liverpool
That change was a no-brainer and it brought a swift improvement, with Sadio Mane offering considerably more in the centre-forward role, while the opportunities soon began to crop up as Alexander-Arnold hit the bar with a deflected shot.
The breakthrough came on the hour, with a sustained period of possession sapping the life out of Villarreal, and it was a brilliant strafing run from Fabinho that opened up the space, the Brazilian a grateful recipient as Salah fed him to fire through Geromino Rulli.
Rulli was worse for the leveller, with Alexander-Arnold’s left-footed cross finding a brilliant run from the substitute Diaz, who managed to nutmeg the Villarreal goalkeeper with a close-range header for 2-2 on the night.
He then made it even worse for himself, as with Mane racing through onto the much-improved Keita’s hopeful ball, Rulli charged way out of his box and missed the challenge completely, allowing the No. 10 to comfortably finish into an open net.
To compound Villarreal’s frustration, Capoue was sent off for a second yellow late on as Liverpool booked their place in the Champions League final.
A third Champions League final in five seasons under Klopp. Paris here we come!
TIA Man of the Match: Luis Diaz
Referee: Danny Makkelie (NED)
Villarreal: Rulli; Foyth, Albiol (Aurier 79′), Torres, Estupinan (Trigueros 79′); Coquelin (Pedraza 69′), Capoue, Parejo, Lo Celso; Moreno (Chukwueze 69′), Dia (Alcacer 80′)
Subs not used: Asenjo, Jorgensen, Gaspar, Iborra, Pena, Mandi, Gomez
Subs not used: Kelleher, Gomez, Matip, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Elliott, Minamino, Origi