Liverpool qualified for the Champions League final after a crazy 3-2 win on Tuesday night (on RMC Sport 1) at Villarreal in the second leg. In the first leg the Reds won 2-0.
The Reds torpedoed the Spanish dream. Liverpool qualified for the tenth Champions League final in their history at Villarreal’s expense, winning Tuesday night at the Estadio de la Cerámica. The Spanish side, beaten 2-0 in last week’s first leg semi-final, were still two goals ahead at the end of an extraordinary first period. But the English club woke up after the break to recover, snatch a 3-2 win, win 5-2 overall and meet on 28 May at the Stade de France in Manchester City or Real Madrid.
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Villarreal needed a “perfect match” to create the company, according to Unai Emery. “Touching excellence”, he had even surpassed the Basque coach, aware that a completely different football had to be offered, which mainly focused on defense having shown all its limits at Anfield. “We know we are only at half-time. We have to ignore the result of the first leg. It will be tough, but it is completely normal,” warned Jürgen Klopp, on the other side.
Behind the two cages on the lawn, the Spanish fans had unfolded this banner: “90 minutes from our dream”. Halfway through the course, after exactly 171 seconds, Senegalese international Boulaye Dia, former Stade de Reims striker, transformed himself into the perfect surface fox to open the scoring and score the first goal of his career in the Champions League.
Incredible first time in Capua
It took Villarreal less than three minutes to complete their game plan, combining sharp passes, maximum debauchery of energy and excess of functionality. Throughout the first half, Liverpool were unrecognizable. Whose fault is it? The Reds themselves, overshadowed by the battle for the Scudetto? Jürgen Klopp, for starting without the vault Luis Diaz or captain Jordan Henderson? Unai Emery, who said he was looking for “more faults than the teams that have faced Liverpool so far”?
The former Paris Saint-Germain manager also said the man of the match absolutely had to be in his ranks to be believed. A message well received by Étienne Capoue. Already a decisive passer in the opening, the French central midfielder transformed into a right winger for the time of an action to offer the equalizer on the whole confrontation to Francis Coquelin (41st). At half-time, with Liverpool unable to shoot on goal, Villarreal not only had ball possession, but also the psychological advantage with the crowd chanting “Si se puede”. Understanding: “We can do it”.
Diaz changed everything, Rulli drove everything
But Jürgen Klopp led Luis Diaz at the end of the half. The appearance of the Colombian striker, a formidable pickaxe in the winter transfer window, coincided with the remarkable awakening of the Reds. The first actions of the second half, with a wrong comeback and a shot on the crossbar, immediately made Villarreal fear the worst.
But if the winner of the 2019 edition fully recovered, the yellow submarine was sunk. Because on the goals of Fabinho (62nd) and Luis Diaz (67th) who canceled all the work done by the Spaniards in the first period, the Argentine goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli let the ball pass between his legs twice. The former Montpellier bulwark was even guilty of a catastrophic remote exit on the door of the KO, signed by Sadio Mané. Sunk, Villarreal suffered the final match and the umpteenth English assaults. Even the exclusion of Étienne Capoue with five minutes to go sounds like a capitulation.
Villarreal, whose budget is four times lower than their opponent’s income of the evening, still come out with their heads held high. His fans know it well: they waved their scarves at the final whistle. A year after the triumphant epic in the Europa League, their heroes had tears in their eyes. Leaving Juventus and Bayern Munich, even if only in 7th place in the league, they managed a remarkable and also historic path. A real advertisement for football and against the Super League.