Liverpool overcome Villarreal to book UCL final ticket

Well , no-one saw that coming. 

A mind-boggling 45 minutes which threatened to give the football world the greatest underdog story of them all.

An utterly baffling first half which saw Liverpool’s team give a pretty good impersonation of that shambolic team across Stanley Park.

But ultimately, after one unbelievable scare, Liverpool recovered and broke the hearts of fans of Villarreal.

So, Jurgen Klopp and his men march on to Paris on May 28 and can still win all four trophies.

Equally, how Liverpool must be thankful they signed Luis Diaz for £37million from Porto in January.

Because if they do win the quadruple this season, they will be thankful of the man who transformed the team as a half-time substitute, just when the team were on their knees, needing something special.

Diaz came on for Dioga Jota and stretched Unai Emery’s team, finally asking them some awkward questions.

He also scored the leveler for 2-2 – and 4-2 on aggregate – which put the game beyond the Yellow Submarine.

Villarreal needed a decent start but not even Emery could have expected a goal in under three minutes. Particularly when they failed, at any stage, to trouble Alisson in the first leg.

But the fans dressed all in yellow started to dream the unthinkable when Etienne Capoue beat Andy Robertson to Pervis Estupinan’s cross and the former Spurs midfielder presented a simple chance for Boulaye Dia who got in front of Virgil van Dijk to score.

From that moment, Liverpool were rattled in a way we have rarely seen them this season with a series of mistakes. A few of them, including Thiago Alcantara and Ibrahima Konate, started making passes to imaginary players and the ball rolled out for throw-ins.

For so much of this season, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Robertson have had licence to roam and caused mayhem down the wings but, they had to defend for virtually the entire first 45 minutes. 

Liverpool appeared to get lucky when referee Danny Makkelie – along with VAR – agreed that Giovano Lo Celso had not been fouled when he fell in a heap after Alisson rushed off his line.

But in the next attack, Alisson was beaten and did not stand a chance.

Capoue turned Robertson inside out and his perfect cross fell perfectly for midfielder Coquelin to rise above Alexander-Arnold and stick a header into the top corner.

It was a surprise that Jota started ahead of Diaz although Klopp corrected that for the start of the second half and Liverpool were a team transformed.

Finally, Villarreal succumbed to the pressure although Fabinho was the unlikely scorer.

He started and finished the move by driving forward, exchanging passes with Mo Salah and then belted a shot through the legs of the keeper Geronimo Rulli.

That was a body blow to Villarreal and then came the knockout six minutes later. Alexander-Arnold, back to his old self getting forward and his left-foot crossed was met with the head of Diaz.

The match was already over but it felt harsh on Villarreal that they fell to pieces. Keeper Rulli lost the plot to rush into the middle of the pitch and Sadio Mane got their first and rolled the ball into the net.

Capoue’s evening ended with a sending off, a second yellow for fouling Curtis Jones. –Sunsports

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