Liverpool reach the Champions League final after being shaken by Villarreal

Three goals in quick succession from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane led Liverpool to a 3-2 win (5-2 overall) and a third Champions League final in just five years, although the score – literally – told only helped the story.

Although he arrived at the Estadio de la Cerámica with a commanding two goals aheadLiverpool manager Jürgen Klopp had warned that his side should be “ready to suffer” and the German’s words proved prophetic as Villarreal stunned the visitors with a fierce first-half performance.

Early goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin sent the “Yellow Submarine” – affectionately nicknamed because of their glowing yellow kit – into uncharted waters, threatening to sink Liverpool’s hopes of becoming the first team to win Champions League, Premier League , FA Cup and League Cup in the same campaign.

Backed by second-half substitute impact Diaz, a flurry of goals during a glittering 12-minute period straightened the ship and stamped Liverpool’s ticket to the Paris final on 28 May.

With the League Cup already in the bank, triumph over Real Madrid or Manchester City in France, should Liverpool win the Premier League and the FA Cup, would seal a historic achievement, elevating the status of the team’s already lauded footballing immortality. Klopp.

Diaz offered a groundbreaking performance for Liverpool.

Salah seeking revenge

Speaking after the match, Klopp and Alexander-Arnold played well on who they wanted to face in the final, telling BT Sport that anyone who made it to Paris deserved to be there.

distress Mohammed Salah though. Replaced in agony due to injury in Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in Kyiv in 2018, the Egyptian has an open question in mind.

“I want to play in Madrid [in the final]Salah said.

“Since we lost against them in the final, I want to play them again, let’s hope we win,” he added with a laugh.

Salah argues with Capoue during the game.

Salah was equally outspoken in chasing a historic quadruple.

“Quadruple now the goal. Maybe not at the beginning of the season. I’m always honest and I focus on the Champions and Premier League. But now, why not?” He said.

“After beating City in the FA Cup semifinal [I thought it was on]. After the group stage I thought ‘Okay, this year we will win the Champions League’. “

Having already led Borussia Dortmund to the final in 2013, two years before joining the Reds, Klopp now joins an illustrious group of coaches who have reached four Champions League finals: Marcello Lippi, Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlo Ancelotti, now Real Madrid Manager.

Ancelotti would have entered a league of his own if he had defeated Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on Wednesday, but Klopp … after signing a new two-year contract last week – has already achieved iconic status at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp

“It’s great. We’ve made it pretty complicated for ourselves, but it’s about how you react and adapt,” Klopp said. “Compared to Villarreal, they made things really difficult.

“I’ll watch it. Whoever it is, it will be huge: they will deserve it and then we will face each other in Paris.”

Perfect start

Villarreal manager Unai Emery noted before the match that his team would have to play “a perfect match” to pass, and his players responded with almost perfect 45 minutes.

After facing criticism for an overly defensive approach to the first leg at Anfield, Villarreal were in the lead after three minutes, and Dia turning home Etienne Capoue’s clever repulsion after the midfielder snuck behind Andy Robertson at the far post.

Dia celebrates by giving his team a dream start.

If the atmosphere at the Estadio de la Cerámica had been buzzing before kick-off, that early goal raised the noise of the crowd near boiling point and the home team matched the intensity.

Those yellow Villarreal jerseys have moved on, resulting in a series of unusual and unforced errors and sloppy passes by a Liverpool side who have looked almost unperturbed this season.

Capoue became supplier again to equalize Villarreal in the tie five minutes before half-time. After a great curve, the Frenchman sent a provocative cross on the head of compatriot Coquelin, who overtook Trent Alexander-Arnold to smash a header into entrenched Alisson.

Coquelin nods home to equalize the 2-2 draw.

Game of the two halves

Spurred on by Diaz’s introduction, Liverpool looked like a different side after half-time. Their greatest urgency was rewarded when Fabinho, picking up Salah’s pass, fired in the legs of Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli to score a timely first Champions League goal for Liverpool and restore the visitors’ advantage.

In 10 minutes the tie was over. Diaz’s electric impact was rewarded with a goal when the Colombian nodded at home to Alexander-Arnold’s cross, before Mane bypassed Rulli and beat home to put the game beyond doubt.

Mane skips Rulli before scoring Liverpool's third goal.

Villarreal’s frustration was summed up by a late red card for Capoue, but when the dust has settled, the Spanish side can reflect on an incredible European journey.

Seventh in La Liga and 29 points behind the Real Madrid champions, a fairytale champions league race saw them defeat European giants Juventus and Bayern Munich en route to their first ever semi-final, not bad for a city of less than 60,000 people.

Yet the night belonged to Liverpool and the delusional red section of the Estadio de la Cerámica, who can now begin planning yet another European Cup final, an evening with the potential to be the most special in the club’s history.