Liverpool (3) 3-0 (1) Villarreal: Anfield crowd roars Reds into Europa League final
Liverpool players celebrate the opening goal of the evening (photo: BPI)

The Anfield crowd were on song to roar Liverpool into the Europa League final on Thursday night, the Reds beating Villarreal 3-0 in front of a packed crowd.

Bruno Soriano's own goal just minutes after kick-off cancelled out the Yellow Submarine's lead, taken in dramatic fashion at the end of last week's first leg. Daniel Sturridge then made it 2-0, Adam Lallana scoring a third towards the end to seal the win, 3-1 on aggregate for Jürgen Klopp's side.

Having already seen off the likes of Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund, the latter in extremely dramatic fashion, at Anfield in Europe this season, it was no surprise that Klopp went with an attacking team in an attempt to overturn the Spanish side.

Sturridge and Lallana started alongside Brazilian's Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino in an attacking quartet filled with ability. Emre Can somehow returned to the midfield with James Milner, just three weeks after sustaining an ankle injury that many thought would keep him out for the season. 

Reds off to a flyer

Following an amazing reception for the Liverpool team bus coming into the ground, and a poignant tribute to the Hillsborough victims before kick-off. Things were perfectly set up for another historic night on Merseyside.

Things, however, could have been much different had goalkeeper Simon Mignolet not been on hand to save from Mario Gaspar's deflected effort a few minutes in. The full-back had a shot fly off Can, which could have wrongfooted Mignolet, but the 'keeper did well to save.

It was a meaningful save, certainly, as the Reds took the lead four minutes after. Nathaniel Clyne's cross missed everyone but was sent back across the box by Firmino and diverted into the net by Bruno, Villarreal's captain struggling to see the ball as Sturridge initially attempted to score.

Chances followed throughout the first half for Liverpool, who were dominating the match thanks to a pair of exceptional midfield performances from Milner and Can. It was a poor night for Alphonse Areola in the Villarreal goal, as he looked uncomfortable for the most part.

One chance did fall to the visitors, just short of half-time, Cedric Bakambu failing to make use of it as the dangerous striker placed a shot in a comfortable area for Mignolet.

Sturridge's goal was crucially timed

As the game entered the second half, things became even more nervy for the home fans, who knew that one away goal would leave them with little time to score twice. Those fears were cast away to some extent on the 64th minute, Sturridge scoring to give his side the overall lead in the tie.

Firmino nipped in to pick up the ball on the edge of the area, sliding it through for Sturridge, who saw his shot move off Areola and onto the inside of the post before eventually nestling into the net. His response was joyous, but the Reds knew that one Villarreal goal could still dump them out.

Sturridge tucks away the second of the night (photo: Graham Chadwick)
Sturridge tucks away the second of the night (photo: Graham Chadwick)

Ruiz sent off before Lallana seals it

That meant that more work had to be done, so instead of sitting back on their lead, Liverpool hunted for a third goal. It did eventually come, but not before Villarreal were reduced to 10 men. Captain Victor Ruiz had experienced a difficult night against the Liverpool forwards, and it ended early as he was sent off for a second yellow card after treading on Adam Lallana.

It was that man Lallana who grabbed the third goal to firmly secure Liverpool's place in the final. Firmino and Sturridge again involved, the Brazilian ran into the area and cut the ball back to his striker, who mishit into the path of Lallana, the Englishman flicking past Areola with the outside of his right boot.

It was plain sailing from then on for the team from L4, who will now meet defending champions Sevilla in the final in just under two weeks time.