Updated:03/05/2022 23:06 hrs
Just under half of the population of a small town of 50,000 inhabitants at the foot of Castellón called Villarreal lived a bittersweet night at the La Cerámica stadium in the most important game in the history of their team since they also fell in the semi-final of the Champions League against Arsenal back in 2006. The yellow fans vibrated and roared with their own to dwarf a giant, one of the best Liverpool in memory, and that’s big words for a club that has won six European Cups.
The feat seemed utopian, but football, an art as beautiful as it is unpredictable, decided that there would be an epic under the Castellón rain. Villarreal died on the edge of the comeback against a Liverpool used to fighting in difficult places.
But, against all odds, he suffered in the heat of the old Madrigal, a fiefdom that never stood out for the heat of its fans. Indeed, this time was different, it was a special day like that of 2006, where only a missed penalty by Riquelme left them agonizingly out of the final.
In the seconds before the clash, a huge typhus with the word ‘endavant’ (forward) starred in the stands of the local stadium. On one side, among a sea of flags and yellow scarves, you could read the club’s initials (VCF); in the other, a submarine seemed to want to intimidate those in the city of the Beatles. A child focused on television cameras drew a 3-0 with his fingers. The people, when no one believed in their team, hoped to turn around the difficult result of Anfield.
The match began with chants of “go for them” and wind music every time a player dressed in red touched the ball. When trust rules among a group of people not even rain can cool your conviction. And, when Dia made it 1-0 in minute three, La Cerámica exploded in jubilation. Boosted by their fans and by the early goal in favor, Villarreal positioned their defense in the middle of the field, pressed with heart for Klopp’s men to leave and settled in the English field. The local occasions followed one another and the cries of encouragement and lament alternated between the 23,000 throats present in an appointment that they will never forget. Liverpool, injured, conceded the second, a beautiful header from Coquelin, while living a black night. He was overtaken on the pitch and intimidated by a crowd that usually lives in calm and restraint. But they already know it at the Bernabéu: the Champions League awakens instincts that were once unlikely.
However, around the locker room, the historic English club woke up. Two early goals from Fabinho and Luis Díaz extinguished the dream of a town and lowered the decibels that reigned in the first half at La Cerámica. Mané made the final 2-3 and with it came absolute silence for the first time that night; the game reached its twilight devoid of tension. But the emotion returned in the discount: the local fans, proud of their own, sang the club’s anthem in unison, scarves in the wind, to pay tribute to the effort of a Villarreal who believed in the feat.