Three things that stood out in Villarreal against Liverpool: Reds as first Bayern, then as real champions

Villarreal puzzled with the next coup and were close at the break. The Spaniards equalized the result of the first match with goals from Boluaye Dia (3rd) and Francis Coquelin (41st).

Liverpool achieved almost nothing and Villarreal produced the “perfect game” that coach Unai Emery demanded: two shots on goal, two goals, and Liverpool do not have a single chance to score.

But the Reds turned up the heat after the break and won the match with goals from Fabinho (62 ‘), Luiz Díaz (67’) and Sadio Mané (74 ‘) and are in the Champions League final for the third time since 2018.

Champions League

Press quotes: “Liverpool survive Villarreal horror”


Three things that stood out in the semifinals’ second match:

1.) Liverpool first bad as Bayern – then as a real champion

In the semi-final against FC Bayern Munich, Villarreal needed seven minutes for the opening goal and it was much faster against Liverpool. Although the Reds were warned by the Bayern game, they made the same mistakes in the beginning: half-hearted tackling and unusually many easy turnovers.

Like Bayern, Liverpool seemed surprised by the power of the hosts.

“It all started as you do not want it to be. It was not according to plan, we did not stay cool. The small stadium burned, they made steam and took real risks by playing man-to-man.” , said coach Jürgen Klopp on “Amazon Prime”.

“On the other hand, we didn’t get into the game. We opened holes defensively, it was crazy. Coquelin just came in in the middle and was able to nod the ball away. We had no rhythm.” said Klopp.

Unlike Bayern, Liverpool were at least active in pressing and thus captured a couple of early balls. But the passing game in the offensive was bad for Liverpool’s standards. “We just hit right out to the balls behind the last line,” Klopp analyzed.

In addition, fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson again revealed weaknesses in the defense. Villarreal hit a couple of diagonal balls at the wing positions and occupied them sometimes twice. Before 2-0, Robertson had to decide between two Spaniards in a running duel and was therefore too far away from Capoue’s post.

In the Premier League, FC Everton (0: 2) recently chose a similar tactic with long diagonal balls, thus causing problems for Liverpool’s back.

After the break, everything changed, and from a Liverpool point of view, everything got better. “During the break we thought: Let’s try it while we’re here. Then we started kicking. We were not ourselves in the first half, we were us again in the second,” said Klopp.

Liverpool lined up a tiring opponent, patiently waiting for their chance and then struck three relentless lines in 14 minutes. “As Liverpool played after the break, only real champions play,” TV expert Rio Ferdinand told BT Sports.

“Amazon Prime” expert Patrick Owomoyela was particularly impressed with the calm of the guests: “It was never hectic. They played it down calmly because they know they can score at any time.”

This works especially well away from home this season. Liverpool have won all six away games en route to the final in Paris on May 28, scoring 18 goals.

And the Reds still do not lack confidence. “We are a top team at the top level. We can always come back after a 0-2 draw. From today I say we will win the Champions League this season,” predicted Mohamad Salah on “BT Sport”.

2. Joker Luis Díaz sticks

Many experts see the missing piece in the puzzle for the perfect team in the winter signing of 45 million euros. In order not to burn the Colombian up right away, his coach gives him creative breaks again and again – also in Villarreal.

On Tuesday, Diogo Jota got a nod and tried in the middle of the attack, while Mané came down on the left wing. As Liverpool’s offensive play barely existed before the break, Klopp decided to make the change at the break: Jota out, Díaz in.

“Jota was not a problem, not even externally. We had eleven problems. And then you need a new push,” Klopp explained. Mané moved into the middle of the attack, while Díaz played on the left as usual – and was immediately in the fight.

Díaz always made room for promising dribbles or passes and was present in the penalty area when the attacks were built up along the right sideline, as in his header to 2-2 after a cross from Alexander-Arnold.

“We moved much better, which made it easier for Luis. But then he played a great match,” Klopp said.

38 ball actions, 91 percent completed passes, four shots on goal, one goal – Klopp had a golden touch with the replacement of Luis Díaz.

3.) Rulli does not have a Champions League semi-final level

Liverpool FC know exactly how important good goalkeepers are in the crunching time of the Champions League. In 2018, the Reds lost 3-1 to Real Madrid in the final when Loris Karius made two devastating mistakes.

This time, Liverpool benefit from a weak goalkeeper. Gerónimo Rulli was somehow involved in all three conceded goals.

First of all: Fabinho’s shot to 2-1 was hard, but from a relatively sharp angle and by no means placed. Basically, the Brazilian just held on because he could not find a teammate in the middle. Rulli got the ball through the legs – not a real goalkeeper error, but the case stood.

Rulli can not be blamed the second goal, Diaz gets a header from a very short distance. The ball finally bounced off Rullis Wade into the net – a bit unlucky for the goalkeeper.

Goal number three was pure slapstick. Completely unnecessarily, Rulli ran towards a deep ball on Mané and came the decisive step too late 35 meters from his own goal. After a short tussle with the defender, Juan Foyth finally tucked the ball home.

It is inactive to wonder if Villarreal would have advanced to the final with a better goalkeeper, but they would certainly have had a real chance. Rulli took the whole team out of the game.

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