Anfield was a sunkissed and vibrant sight on Wednesday evening as the city that birthed the yellow submarine hosted… the yellow submarine for a famous European night. A familiar face in Unai Emery, whose Sevilla side thwarted Liverpool in the Europa League 2016 final but not since joining and subsequently leaving Arsenal several years later. In that same competition, Liverpool saw off Villarreal in the semi-final prior to facing Emery (gotta love coincidences). A patient Liverpool side had to wait until the second half to hammer the first nail into this two-legged coffin, as Henderson’s cross was deflected in by Estupinan (53′ og) before Sadio Mane killed the round off (55′) soon after. Read on for our full Liverpool 2-0 Villarreal report.
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Image source: This is Anfield
Liverpool 2-0 Villarreal | First Half
Anfield, Champions League Semi-Final, First-Leg
Emery set his side up to absorb Liverpool’s pressure, fielding a low-block 4-4-2, likely to grind out a draw going into the next round. This resulted in Liverpool having the lion’s share of possession. Even when Villarreal gained possession and occasionally attempted to play on the front foot, Liverpool hunted them down like a hydraulic press and quashed any decent attempt at build-up play.
Sadio Mane came very close to putting his side ahead after eleven minutes, heading a dangerous Mo Salah cross well wide of the target. Just a few minutes later Diaz tested the Villarreal keeper, hitting the ball decently from outside the box. Ultimately, it was a straightforward stop for Rulli. Diaz was not done though, trying again from an identical position on the pitch, unfortunately, this too was stopped fairly comfortably. Thiago later tried to get in on the action, firing a rocket from outside the box, thankfully for Villarreal though, it bounced off the crossbar, only just.
HT: 0-0 – Despite the Red’s possession, pressing and attempts, they were held at the break.
Image source: This is Anfield
With everything still up for grabs in the second half, Emery and Klopp stuck to their guns and continued the tactics and playing styles they implemented in the first half. Liverpool pressed as hard as they could and Villarreal defended with stoicism.
Fabinho looked to open the scoring early on, getting on the end of a well-taken corner and subsequent chip but that all-too-familiar offside flag was raised almost immediately.
In minute 53, Jordan Henderson, in an attempt to chip the ball to someone on the forward line inadvertently took a deflection and found its way in. We needed a miracle to get ahead, thankfully the captain was there to deliver, 1-0.
Mane made it two goals in two minutes after receiving the ball from Mo Salah in a dangerous area, tapping it neatly past the Villarreal goalkeeper. Not much else can be said about it, simple and sweet in the right place at the right time!
That despicable offside flag made one more appearance, to the joy of the Liverpool faithful. A glorious ball over the top found Andy Robertson, hungry for more goals. Sadly, the scoreline remained 2-0 by the full-time whistle.
Despite a stalwart double-bank of four by Unai Emery, desperate to take the next leg home relatively unscathed. Sadly for him, this was not the case. Two send-half goals give Liverpool a nice edge going into the next leg which commences on Tuesday 3rd May.
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