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Three things that hit Liverpool in the semi-final against Villarreal: Thiago bites the short leash

Drawing the right conclusions from the elimination of Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, he did not underestimate the Villarreal opponents and remained true to himself.

Liverpool FC have one foot in the Champions League final after a 2-0 victory in the first leg of the semi-finals and can continue to dream of the historic quadruple.

Jürgen Klopp’s side needed patience for Wednesday’s half-time at Anfield to break through Villarreal’s defense but stressed once again over the course of the 90 minutes why they are currently regarded as Europe’s best side alongside Manchester City .

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Three things we noticed.

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Anyone expecting a similar football festival following the spectacular 4: 3 between Manchester City and Real Madrid on Tuesday was disappointed on Wednesday at Anfield Road. At least one bit’.

This was mainly due to the fact that a team had no desire to play high-speed football at all. From the first minute it was clear that Villarreal FC had come, with two full-backs perfectly set to four, to climb over the wall in front of their own penalty area and return to Spain with the fewest goals conceded.

It worked well in the first half. As against Juventus Turin and FC Bayern, Unai Emery had set his men to perfection tactically. With disciplined and intelligent defensive work, the Yellow Submarine not only managed to close center but also largely stopped Liverpool’s dangerous winger play via full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.

The fact that Emery’s match schedule hasn’t paid off this time isn’t just for the pure class of the Reds, who upped the ante at half-time, but also for their goalkeeper.

A Jordan Henderson cross was deflected by Pervis Estupiñán in the 53rd minute, and Gerónimo Rulli looked unhappy and sent the ball to the far post.

Gerónimo Rulli fails against Liverpool FC

Photo credit: Getty Images

“When a team plays with such a deep wall, you also need a little luck,” said Reds captain Jordan Henderson in an interview with “BT Sport”: “We did it and it really got the audience going. “.

It was the initial spark for Jürgen Klopp’s side, who immediately tasted the blood and just two minutes later scored the second goal from Salah’s perfect pass for Sadio Mané.

“We defended well in the first half, but in the second half we were a little overtaken”, analyzed Pau Torres of Villarreal, who did not go well even at 0-2: “Our mistakes were punished”.

Thiago bites the short leash

120 steps. Here are how many Thiago played last Sunday in the Merseyside derby against Everton (2-0) – 26 more than the entire opposing team.

The Spaniard has been in exceptional form for weeks and hasn’t lost to Emery. That is why on Wednesday the Villarreal manager devised a very special type of guard for his compatriot.

To give the former Bayern star as little time as possible to play his feared balls in depth, Thiago was almost permanently a Villarreal forward on his feet as soon as he touched the ball. Especially Bayern’s scare Samuel Chukwueze had the task of constantly disturbing the Spaniard in preparing for the game and taking him on a leash.

However, it only worked for just under half an hour before Thiago drew his conclusions, literally bit the leash and slowly took control of the game.

With a hammer from 25 meters, he narrowly missed the lead just before half-time (42nd). Even in the second half, Thiago never took his foot off the gas: contrary to his debut at Liverpool, when he often looked like a foreign body, he was the fulcrum of the Reds game.

With 103 passes (with a 96 percent success rate!), He didn’t match the highest score against Everton, but was still enough for the well-deserved best trophy on the pitch.

Pressing of Liverpool from the other star

What did Liverpool FC do better than FC Bayern? This question should probably be asked all over Germany after the first leg of the semi-final.

Defender Torres admitted after the game that Villarreal’s match schedule against Liverpool was similar to the one against Bayern Munich two weeks ago.

Unlike Bayern, however, the Reds managed to nip off the counterattacking opportunities of the seventh position in La Liga and never really risked conceding an unfortunate goal.

“If Villarreal can free themselves from the pressure, then they are immediately dangerous,” explained Jürgen Klopp at a press conference after the match. Ergo: It is best to keep the pressure high. And Liverpool did it perfectly on Wednesday night.

“The back pressure was very good for most of the game,” said Henderson who, along with Fabinho and Thiago in midfield, quickly recovered countless balls after losing the ball.

“They were better than us. We would have liked to have created more chances, but we were put a lot on the defensive,” said Emery, who is already looking forward to the return: “2-0 is a clear and well-deserved result. It could have been even worse. However, we still have a chance. We are still alive. “

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