Liverpool eye Champions League final after beating Villarreal
English club takes semi-final first leg 2-0 at home against Spanish opponents.
Jurgen Klopp warned that Liverpool must remain “on alert” despite putting one foot in the Champions League final with a dominant 2-0 win over Villarreal in the first leg of their semi-final tie at Anfield.
Two goals in two minutes undid Villarreal boss Unai Emery’s defensive game plan on Wednesday as Pervis Estupinan deflected Jordan Henderson’s cross into his own net before Sadio Mane slotted in a second.
The Reds remain on course for an unprecedented quadruple of Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup.
Can’t be understated what this man had done for Liverpool. Qualifying for the Champions League was a big success when he arrived. Now one game away from our third final, a Premier League title won, an FA Cup Final and a League cup already won this season. It is truly a golden era pic.twitter.com/q3tbwwbBYS
— DaveOCKOP (@DaveOCKOP) April 27, 2022
Barring a huge upset when the sides meet again in southern Spain in six days’ time, Liverpool’s season will finish with a third Champions League final in five seasons in Paris on May 28.
“It is 2-0 at half-time,” said Liverpool boss Klopp. “You have to be completely on alert, 100 percent in the right moment and play the second half like we played the first. We know it will be a tricky atmosphere for us.”
In stark contrast to the free-flowing thrills of Manchester City’s 4-3 win over Real Madrid in the other semi-final, on Tuesday, Emery’s men followed the same tactic that saw them past Juventus and Bayern Munich by retreating behind the ball.
However, the Yellow Submarine could barely lay a glove on Klopp’s men as Liverpool just had to bide their time to make their dominance count.
“The 2-0 is a clear, deserved result,” said Emery. “It could have been even worse but we still have a chance. I want to show we are capable of playing a different game at home.”
The goals came early in the second half – and within 133 seconds of each other – as Villarreal left-back Estupinan unwittingly deflected a cross by Henderson into his own net in the 53rd minute, with goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli only managing to tip a looping ball into his own net.
One goal can quickly turn into two in these energy-charged European nights at Anfield and that is what transpired again, with Villarreal still shaken up from conceding the opener when Mane ran onto Mohamed Salah’s through-ball and toe-poked a low finish beyond Rulli.