Liverpool reach the Champions League final with a comeback against Villareal

Liverpool survived the fright in the first half by reaching the Champions League final with a 3-2 win at Villarreal on Tuesday for a 5-2 aggregate victory after the night threatened to sour for Juergen Klopp’s side.

The visitors fell 2-0 with an insipid first-half performance before reacting with three goals in 12 minutes after the break to advance to the third European Cup final in five seasons.

The Premier League side had won 2-0 at home but looked in danger of breaking free on a rain-soaked pitch in Spain when the hosts anchored them with goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin.

Liverpool, however, came out transformed after half-time and goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane sealed the deal, with Villarreal finishing the match with just 10 men following a late red card for Etienne. Capoue.

Klopp’s side will meet either Real Madrid or Manchester City, who will play the second leg of the semi-final on Wednesday, in the May 28 show in Paris. City led the 4-3 tie from the first leg.

Roaring from their loyal fans who were crammed into their modest stadium, Villarreal opened the scoring after three minutes with a close-range shot from Dia that was greeted by a chorus of “Yes, we can!” by home fans.

Villarreal had been lifeless in the first leg at Anfield but looked like a completely different side when they broke into Liverpool with the same aggressive play that had eliminated Juventus in the round of 16 and beat Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals.

Their relentless pressure has forced Liverpool to make mistakes they usually don’t, with visitors passing accuracy of 66%, the lowest they have achieved in the first half of a match in any competition this season.

Villarreal equalized with Coquelin’s close range header and looked on the verge of a miraculous comeback.

The hosts even got a penalty foiled by referee Danny Makkelie in the 38th minute when Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker came out to choke the ball and then packed into Giovani Lo Celso inside the box.

Yet Klopp took Diaz off the bench in the second half and the Colombian winger in form changed the dynamics of the game, finding space and taking advantage of a Villarreal that seemed to have run out of gas.

As Liverpool’s pressure builds, it seemed only a matter of time until they scored and the goal eventually came after a brilliant combination between Fabinho and Mohamed Salah on the right wing.

The Brazilian midfielder recovered a loose ball near the Villarreal area, passed two defenders before playing one-two with the Egyptian.

Salah cheered him up with a pass between three defenders that left him alone to score with a low, angled shot that went between the legs of Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli, who endured a tough match.

Liverpool smelled the smell of blood and looked for the jugular, led by Diaz who slipped into the middle of the area to head Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross that easily passed the goalkeeper in the 67th minute.

Seven minutes later Rulli tries to block a long pass for Mane outside the box and completely misses the ball, leaving the Senegalese striker all alone to end up with an empty net.

Capoue, who had enjoyed an excellent first half with two assists, was sent off with five minutes to go, receiving a second yellow card for a late match on Curtis Jones.

“The initial goal didn’t help us, it helped them enormously, so we had to dig deep, we had to be very mature. And of course in the second half, we played exceptionally well, ”said Liverpool center-back Virgil van Dijk, adding that Klopp had given them clear instructions at half-time.

“(We needed to) play football, play the Liverpool way, as we’ve been playing pretty much all season. Get on the ball, they have a lot of movement on the ball but also behind the last line, they play a high line, so with the speed we have, we have to mix that too, “he said.

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