Liverpool Sink The Yellow Submarine To Reach Third UCL Final In Five Years

The Reds' pursuit of a historic Quadruple remains on track after coming from behind to beat Villarreal
21:58, 03 May 2022

Liverpool booked their place in a third Champions League final in five years after a spectacular second-half performance saw them come from behind to beat Villarreal 3-2 (agg: 5-2). 

Although a 2-0 first-leg win left Liverpool in the driving seat ahead of their trip to Estadia de la Ceramica, Jurgen Klopp said his side would have to “be ready to suffer” in their bid to reach the competition’s showpiece in Paris at the end of the month.

That turned out to be somewhat prophetic as Villarreal gave Liverpool a real scare tonight, taking a two goal lead in the first half. But Liverpool, inspired by a phenomenal Luis Diaz, roared back to keep their dreams of an unprecedented quadruple well and truly alive.

The home side opened the scoring inside just three minutes through Boulaye Dia. Pervis Estupinan crossed to Etienne Capoue at the back post who laid it across goal for a simple finish for the Senegalese forward, his first touch, to spark some real hope for Unai Emery’s side. 

Villarreal, who had never lost a home match in the UCL knockout stages before, started like a different animal to the one that lined-up at Anfield a week ago. The Yellow Submarine registered three shots on target in the first 15 minutes - three times as many as they did in Merseyside across 90.

The first real chance for the visitors came when Diogo Jota found his way behind the Villarreal defence, but a combination of Raul Albiol and Geronimo Rulli were able to react quickly and snuff out the threat. Mohamed Salah had won the ball back from Rulli, but the referee blew for a foul.

Villarrreal thought they had won a penalty after a Giovani Lo Celso one-on-one with Alisson went awry. However, the Brazilian referee waved away the appeals - a subsequent VAR check vindicated the official’s decision. 

Liverpool looked like a poor caricature of their usual selves and began to grow frustrated as the first-half wore on. Their Spanish opposition were frankly playing them off the park - they were showing an aggression and slickness that was entirely absent from their first-leg performance. 

The home side doubled their lead five minutes before the break. Latching on to a Capoue cross from the right, former Arsenal man Francis Coquelin rose highest to nod home and bring the tie level heading into the break. 

Liverpool began to play with a little more impetus after half-time and were given some encouragement when, from 30 yards out, Trent Alexander-Arnold's shot took a deflection off Coquelin and looped over a helpless Rulli only to be stopped by the crossbar. 

The away side regained control of the tie thanks to some poor goalkeeping and an unlikely source when Salah set up Fabinho to drill a low shot through the legs of Rulli. The arrival of Diaz after the break had completely changed the tide of the game and the dazzling Colombian helped restore Liverpool’s two-goal lead, heading home an Alexander-Arnold cross.

Whatever Klopp had said to his team in the dressing room must have been impressive and it wasn’t long before Sadio Mane wrapped up the comeback and the match. Played through by Naby Keita, Mane beat the onrushing Rulli and duly slotted into the empty net.

Villarreal’s capitulation was completed when Capoue was sent off for a second bookable offence after a late challenge on Curtis Jones.

Liverpool's quest for a historic Quadruple continues. Their next leg of the Quad will come against Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 14, a repeat of this season's League Cup final, which the Reds won on penalties. In the race for the Premier League, Klopp’s side are still just a point behind City with four games of the season to go.

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