Champions LeagueLiverpool have taken a solid option for a third place in the final in five years. The English won their first leg of the semi-final at home against Villarreal 2-0. In retrospect, the oppressive pressure of the home team was topic number one among the analysts. “They are ruthless.”
Villarreal had knocked out Juventus and then Bayern in the previous rounds, but at Anfield it soon became clear that the Spaniards would have to suffer the match. Liverpool locked in the visitors from the start and would never relinquish control of the match. Still, Klopp’s troops struggled to get through the yellow wall – Mane headed the best chance wide. With halftime in sight, Thiago came closest to scoring, but his icicle exploded at the intersection. After 45 minutes of football it was still 0-0.
The peg of Thiago:
Eight minutes into the second half, Liverpool was suddenly given a strong boost by a goal that almost literally fell from the sky. A cross from Henderson deviated from Estupiñan and fell over Rulli in goal: 1-0.
The 1-0 via an own goal from Estupiñan:
The home team smelled blood and barely two minutes later had a second goal. Salah put Mane alone in front of goal, the Senegalese remained cool and put the 2-0 against the ropes. Villarreal, who only scored once in the entire game, was unable to react. Divock Origi also saw that, who was allowed to come in for another ten minutes. A third stunt seems far away for the Spaniards, Liverpool are with one leg in a new Champions League final.
Ferdinand, Owen and Crouch impressed
“Liverpool demolition”, that’s how our man in the stadium described the first half of Liverpool. Because the constant pressure on the half of Villarreal was suffocating. It meant that the Spaniards never got a full counter on their feet. They simply didn’t have the time for that. Some numbers to back it up: 74 percent possession versus 26. Five shots on target versus zero. 737 completed passes vs 272.
In the BT Sport studio, the three analysts Rio Ferdinand (81-time international), Michael Owen (Liverpool icon and 89-time international) and Peter Crouch (42-time international) were deeply impressed by Klopp’s approach. “This is the best Liverpool I’ve ever seen,” said Ferdinand. “They are ruthless. The way they push teams back, that energy, that effort. I sat here in amazement.”
Owen: “This was total, total dominance. For me, too, this is the best Liverpool I’ve seen play. They are everywhere. The Villarreal players have stepped off the pitch thinking: ‘What happened to us here?’ It is simply impossible to find an answer to this pressing. But… Villarreal is not completely finished in my opinion. Liverpool needed one more goal for that. Then it had game, set en match been.”
Crouch adds: “Unfortunately I am too young to compare this group with the selection from the 70s. But this is the best I could see with my own eyes. Villarreal didn’t get a second. That Liverpool midfield, with Fabinho, Thiago (96 percent of his passes arrived, ed.) and Henderson, was astonishing.”
The last word is for the coach himself, Jürgen Klopp: “It was a brilliant match. I am very pleased with the first half. The only problem was we didn’t score. But we had them under control. That was important because of their counters. After the break we finished it off with two excellent goals.”
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