Villarreal tinkered with the next coup and were close to half-time. The Spaniards equalized the result of the first leg with goals from Boluaye Dia (3rd) and Francis Coquelin (41st).
Liverpool have done nothing and Villarreal have produced the “perfect play” required by manager Unai Emery: two shots on target, two goals and Liverpool have not a single chance to score.
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Three things that stood out in the second leg semi-final:
1.) Liverpool are as bad as Bayern first, then as a true champion
In the semi-final against Bayern Munich, Villarreal took seven minutes to score the first goal, and were much faster against Liverpool. Although the Reds were cautioned by the Bayern game, they made the same mistakes at first: lighthearted tackles and an unusual number of easy turnovers.
Like Bayern, Liverpool seemed surprised by the power of the hosts.
“It all started the way you don’t want it to be. It wasn’t according to plan, we didn’t stay calm. The small stadium was on fire, steaming and taking serious risks playing man to man to man.” , coach Jürgen Klopp told “Amazon Prime”.
“We, on the other hand, didn’t go into the game. We punched holes in the defense, it was crazy. Coquelin just got in and was able to stun the ball. We had no rhythm,” Klopp said.
Unlike Bayern, Liverpool were at least active in pressing and therefore won some initial balls. But the pass play in attack was bad by Liverpool’s standards. “We just bluntly hit the balls behind the last line,” Klopp analyzed.
Additionally, full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson again revealed defensive weaknesses. Villarreal hit some diagonal balls on the wing positions and sometimes occupied them twice. Before the 2-0, Robertson had to decide between two Spaniards in a racing duel and was therefore too far from Capoue’s cross.
In the Premier League, FC Everton (0: 2) have recently chosen a similar tactic with long diagonal throws, thus creating problems outside Liverpool.
After the break everything changed and from Liverpool’s point of view everything improved. “At half-time we thought: let’s try while we’re here. Then we started kicking. It wasn’t ourselves in the first half, it was us again in the second,” Klopp said.
Liverpool fielded a tough opponent, waited patiently for his chance and then unleashed three merciless attacks in the space of 14 minutes. “The way Liverpool played after the break, only real champions play,” TV expert Rio Ferdinand told “BT Sports”.
“Amazon Prime” expert Patrick Owomoyela was particularly impressed by the guests’ calm: “He was never hectic. They downplayed calmly because they know they can score at any time.”
It works particularly well outside the home this season. Liverpool won all six away games en route to the Paris final on 28 May, scoring 18 goals.
And anyway, the Reds do not lack self-confidence. “We are a top team at the highest level. We can always come back after a 0-2. From today, I say we will win the Champions League this season”, predicted Mohamad Salah on “BT Sport”.
2. Point Joker Luis Diaz
On Tuesday, Diogo Jota took his mark and ventured into the center of the attack while Mané dropped to the left wing. With Liverpool’s attacking play almost non-existent before half-time, Klopp decided to make the change at half-time: Jota out, Díaz in.
“Jota hasn’t been a problem, not even close. We’ve had eleven problems. And then you need new momentum,” explained Klopp. Mané moved to the center of the attack, while Diaz played as usual on the left – and was immediately in play.
Díaz always left room for promising dribbles or crosses and was present in the penalty area when attacks were built on the right flank, as in his 2-2 header from Alexander-Arnold’s cross.
“We moved a lot better, which made things easier for Luis. But then he played a great game,” said Klopp.
38 actions with the ball, 91 percent of passes completed, 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 at the crucial moment 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 somewhat involved in all three goals conceded.
First things first: Fabinho’s shot for the 2-1 was tough, but from a relatively sharp angle and not at all placed. Basically, the Brazilian held out because he couldn’t find a teammate in between. Rulli slipped the ball into his legs, not a real mistake by the goalkeeper, but he held up.
Second innocent goal by Rulli, from a very short distance a header by Diaz. The ball finally bounces off the net on Rullis Wade, a bit unfortunate for the keeper.
Goal number three was pure farce. Completely to no avail, Rulli runs towards a deep ball on Mané and takes the decisive step too late 35 meters from the own goal. As defender Juan Foyth then moved into space, Mané only had to push the ball into the empty goal.
It is useless to speculate if Villarreal would have gone through to the final with a better goalkeeper, but they certainly would have had a real chance. Rulli knocked out the whole team.
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