It’s the third time in five years that Jurgen Klopp has guided his relentless squad of ‘mentality monsters’ to the final of the UEFA Champions League, meaning Liverpool will now have played every game possible in this campaign, as they continue their surge for the quadruple.
Villareal welcomed the Reds to the Estadio de la Ceramica as the Spanish side aimed to claw back a two-goal deficit suffered at Anfield a week earlier. An own goal by Pervis Estupinan and a goal by Sadio Mane gave Klopp’s men what seemed to be some breathing space coming into the second leg. But as Liverpool’s men have proven to sides in this competition before, you’re never safe.
A tenth Champions League final beckons for Liverpool yet it owes a lot to super-sub Luis Diaz. Outstanding since his January transfer from Porto, the Colombian replaced Diogo Jota at half time. He provided a constant threat in the second half. His man of the match performance was rewarded with a goal as he headed home from a trademark Trent Alexander-Arnold cross.
It was the biggest game in Villareal’s European history, and that was evident from the atmosphere generated within the cauldron of the yellow submarine. The energy from the stands made its way onto the pitch as Unai Emery’s side came flying out the traps to deal a blow to Liverpool within four minutes.
Former Watford and Tottenham midfielder Étienne Capoue latched onto a sublime Estupinan cross; the Frenchman’s failed effort fell into the path of Boulaye Dia who made no mistake firing into an empty net.
Just as it looked like Liverpool were only going to go into the interval one behind and their aggregate lead intact, Francis Coquelin rose highest to head home just before the break. Unai Emery stayed true to his word as he certainly made the six-time Champions League winners suffer.
Liverpool were shaken in that first half, struggling to string a sequence of passes together and failing to create any clear cut chances of their own. But this was all testament to the Spanish outfit, who demonstrated exactly why they’ve defeated European giants Bayern Munich and Juventus along the way. Relentless pressing and ruthless finishing when the chances came gave the hosts a well-deserved lead going into the break.
As the second half unfolded, it became a match that was a real representation of a game of two halves. Liverpool proved just why they have entered May with their eyes set on an infamous quadruple.
Liverpool managed to grab a foothold in the game and began to play ‘The Liverpool way’ which was the instruction Klopp gave his men at half time. Fabinho set the reds on their way to victory as he fired through the legs of Gerónimo Rulli.
After replacing Diogo Jota at half time, Luis Diaz latched onto a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross to give Liverpool a two-goal advantage once again. A goal that was thoroughly deserved for the Colombian’s second half performance.
Sadio Mane put the final nail in Villareal’s coffin as he took the ball past the onrushing Rulli to walk the ball into an empty net.
There was still time for Etienne Capoue to be sent off as he was dismissed for a second bookable offence as Villareal began to express their frustration, with the Reds showing their class.
It will feel like an opportunity squandered for Unai Emery and his side given the position they got themselves in at half time. But their efforts not only in this game, but ever since they defeated Manchester United in last year’s Europa League final were certainly recognised by their fans at full time as they were applauded on a lap of honour.