Liverpool put one foot in the historic European Cup final – the fifth in the UEFA Champions League – with a 2-0 win over Villarreal at Anfield in the first leg of their semi-final.
Pervis Estupinan’s goal and Sadio Mane’s perfect goal within just a few minutes and a second were huge successes.
Mane came close to breaking the deadline early but misled his head on Mohamed Salah’s cross on the post. Luis Diaz also forced the retention and breach of Geronimo Rulli the Villarreal goalkeeper recovered quickly.
The intensity of the attack remained with Liverpool everywhere and Rulli had to pull off another Diaz strike shot to the left in half an hour. Raul Albiol at the time was there to ensure that no Liverpool player could turn the ball into the net shortly thereafter. In a short time, Albiol had sadly diverted Mane’s attempt at the post office. Giovani Lo Celso again blocked Salah.
Liverpool thought the victory came at the end of the first half when Thiago released a fierce shot from a distance. But the ball hit the post and it was clear.
Anfield briefly exploded a few minutes after the break when Fabinho turned the ball over from Virgil van Dijk, but the Dutchman was offside and the flag immediately went up.
After patiently waiting for a goal, the two arrived in quick succession. The opener was not good, but Liverpool did well by opening up the opportunity, with Thiago mostly beating his husband and changing him. Jordan Henderson’s cross diverted Estupinan and Rulli managed to bounce as he passed through his head.
The second looked good, finished well by Mane on the other side of the gully after Salah drove into the box and played his teammate inside Pau Torres’ legs.
Liverpool quickly hit the net again with Andrew Robertson, who was on the sidelines, and Rulli almost went astray due to Virgil van Dijk’s speculation.
With a well-off move to northeastern Spain next week, the Reds did not need to re-enforce the issue and successfully block any chance to fight Villarreal at night.
1. Liverpool (4-3-3) Player Rating
GK: Alisson – 6/10 – Social media joked all night about how much she was a spectator. It is also possible that you are sitting in Kop.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7/10 – Villarreal beat him well, in the first half, often forcing him into his weak left foot. It has grown into something after the break.
CB: Iraima Konate – 6/10 – Enjoyed a comfortable night, Villarreal can attack any attack.
CB: Virgil van Dijk – 6/10 – She booked the first half to have Samuel Chukwueze’s body examined. He almost hit a screamer.
LB: Andrew Robertson – 6/10 – He had the ball in the net but he listened well.
CM: Jordan Henderson – 7/10 – He will not get the exact honor of the opening goal but he has played a key role in this victory because of you.
CM: Fabinho – 8/10 – Another Liverpool player to see a goal denied offside flag – well, mind. Good division of games in the middle of the field.
CM: Thiago Alcantara – 8/10 – His ingenuity and vision make the first goal possible as he hits his husband with a body swerve and moves the ball out.
RF: Mohamed Salah – 8/10 – He was instrumental in creating both goals, signing a second straight assistant carefully with the ball.
ST: Sadio Mane – 7/10 – He was unable to get his angle header at first but he managed to finish well twice ahead. It looks like it’s about to be released in about 20 minutes.
LF: Luis Diaz – 7/10 – He did not rest Juan Foyth and brought an unsatisfactory save to Rulli in the Villarreal goal.
SUB: Naby Keita (72 ‘of Henderson) – 6/10
SUB: Diogo Jota (73 ‘of Mane) – 5/10
SUB: Joe Gomez (81 ‘by Alexander-Arnold) – 6/10
SUB: Divock Origi (81 ‘of Diaz) – 5/10
Source: 90 MIN