LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – An own goal and Sadio Mann’s strike gave Liverpool a 2-0 win over Villarreal in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday, leading Jurgen Klopp’s side to their third European Cup final in five seasons.
Following the drama of Tuesday’s other semi-final, which saw Manchester City beat Real Madrid 4-3 in Etihad, it will never be easy for the game to compete in an entertainment partnership.
However, Liverpool have done enough to build a solid lead in Tuesday’s return game in Spain where they will be confident of finishing the job.
With Villarreal defending the numbers in the first half to disappoint the six-time European Cup winners, Thiago Alcantara came close to breaking the stalemate with a thunderous strike from a distance hitting the post.
There were several half-chances for Liverpool as Jordan Henderson drilled into the side netting and Mohamed Salah put in a massive effort, while the mean saw a misguided effort jeep right after the post.
But for the most part, Unai Emery’s defense tackled well, with Pau Torres and Central midfield pairing Dani Perezo and Etienne Capu defending the area in front of them.
After the break Liverpool turned it into a notch and the moment Brazilian midfielder Fabinho canceled an attempt for offside, Parvis Estupinan distracted his own net to break Henderson’s cross Villarreal resistance.
Able to express himself by breaking the stalemate, Mohamed Salah gave Mane a great pass to surpass the spectators 133 seconds later.
The pressure from Liverpool was sometimes too much for the Spaniards and they had a chance to make the result more extensive.
Andy Robertson thwarted a great effort after connecting a sweeping cross of Trent Alexander-Arnold offside, while Virgil Van Dyke tried his luck with a long-range lightning strike that almost knocked Villarreal keeper Geronimo Ruli off his feet.
Anfield showed his gratitude in the final whistle but in a real sense it was a game that felt more like a group-stage match than a confrontation in the last four.
“They are a very organized team and we knew they would make it difficult. It was important that we keep going and believe that we would eventually break them. We did it with two good goals, “said Henderson.
“For most of the game, our counter press was really good. It makes it difficult for them. But the game is still alive and it will be tough in Villarreal. – Reuters