We react to Liverpool’s Champions League victory over Villarreal and give you a chance to vote for Man of the Match.
Liverpool 2 – 0 Villareal
Reds: Estupinan (OG) 53’, Mané 55’
Yellow Submarine: N/A
When looking at the line up tonight, we very well could be seeing the starting XI—margin of error plus or minus Joel Matip—for the Champions League final, should we get there. And this is a side built for getting there.
It’s Sadio Mané up top and through the middle, flanked by Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz. Captain Jordan Henderson starts alongside Fabinho and Thiago. And it’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ibrahima Konaté, Virgil van Dijk, and Andy Robertson in defense. Alisson, naturally, is between the sticks.
This side is built for a fast start. This side is built for goals. This side is built to put the tie to bed tonight, should the opportunity present itself. Anfield is ready to rock, and so are these Reds.
Villarreal start by making Liverpool attack the Kop in the first half. So that’s how it is, is it? As expected, Liverpool start with the vast majority of possession, and Villarreal are comfortable defending (and taking forever on goal kicks).
Twenty minutes in, and neither side has really threatened yet. Mané has gotten into some decent positions, including a header in front of goal, but has yet to trouble the goalkeeper.
Liverpool have played some great stuff in the opening period, but were either been let down by the finish, the pass before the finish, or just an unfortunate bounce. A Mané shot deflected just wide, a long-range Thiago effort clattered off the post, and a couple of rebounds pinged dangerously around the box without a final touch to guide them toward goal. The Reds were unlucky not to get a breakthrough, but there will be chances in the second half.
Defensively, the visitors have managed just a single shot, so it really has been a dominant half. They just need a bit more quality in the final third to make the gulf in class count.
Liverpool get an early goal from a set piece to start the second half, but it’s correctly chalked off for Van Dijk’s involvement from an offside position. Still, a promising opening few minutes from the Reds.
GOAL! JORDAN HENDERSON GETS THE BREAKTHROUGH! Well, it’ll probably go down as an own goal, but still. Hendo plays a 1-2 with Salah at the edge of the box, sends in a cross that is cruelly—and by that, I mean perfectly—past the outstretched arms of the keeper!
GOAL!! And two minutes later, Sadio makes it 2-0! And it’s another assist for Mo! Mo plays Sadio in, and the Senegalese striker turns it in with a deft touch.
It’s fair to say the goal rattled the visitors in a way that they hadn’t been rattled against Juve or Bayern. And if Anfield was up after the first goal, it’s absolutely rabid after the second. The Merseyside Giants smell blood in the water.
With seventy minutes gone, Klopp makes his first subs of the night, brining off Henderson and Mané for Naby Keita and Diogo Jota. Liverpool have been buoyed by the goals and look far more likely to score a third.
The game has opened up since the subs, though probably more as a result of Villarreal now trying to get something out of this match. With ten to go, Klopp takes Trent and Diaz off for Joe Gomez and Divock Origi.
Final Thoughts and Man of the Match
It’s 2-0 at halftime. Far from “job done,” but still an important advantage to take into the second away leg. For as dominant as Liverpool were, they’ll perhaps be disappointed that they didn’t get a third, especially in the 10 or 15 minutes following the first goal.
Still, a very good, professional performance from the Reds, and they’ll be big favorites to go through to the final. Villarreal will have to come out and attack in the second leg—the managed just one shot tonight—and that might just play into Liverpool’s hands.