The Champions League never lets us down. Every match brings its versatile possible result. After an exciting goal-fest that took place at Etihad Stadium where Man City defeated the UCL’s most successful side Real Madrid by the barest of the margins, much was expected of Liverpool’s dominance on a relatively tiny Villarreal. However, Villarreal held their ground rather firmly, knowing well that playing in Anfield against Liverpool is a horror story that can give ‘The Conjuring’ a run for its money. Villarreal somehow overcame a tedious first half where they strangled Liverpool’s forward line, but what followed later was a Thiago master-class as the Spanish midfielder dominated the center of Anfield and gave the forwards a new lease of life. It all culminated in a 2-0 win, but Jurgen Klopp would love to have his players pay back the ‘Yellow Submarine’ a taste of helplessness on the 4th of May.
In the first half, Liverpool had played their best forward line of the season, an attack line that was led by Sadio Mane accompanied by a prolific Mo Salah on the right-wing, and a creative Luis Diaz on the left wing. The quality wingbacks in a wonderful Trent Alexander Arnold and a reliable Andy Robertson not only held the fort in the defense but also created chances when possible. The forwards tried all the tricks against Villarreal’s defense but failed to score against them. Villarreal had played very defensively during the first half and was successful to constrain the English Giants. In return, there was only so much the Reds had to offer. That being the case the Reds did have some chances to open the score sheet, but a determined Geronimo Rulli and fate had other plans.
After Jurgen Klopp’s inspiring speech during halftime, Liverpool looked energetic and bright. Liverpool managed to score a goal against Villarreal in the 53rd minute. It was the Reds captain Jordan Henderson, who shot towards the goal from the edge of the box only to be deflected P. Estupinan. Rulli, Villarreal’s goalkeeper, managed to get his hand on the stray ball but couldn’t push the ball off the net, making it their own goal. In the span of the next 2 minutes, Mo Salah produced a magnificent chance. Salah managed to fool Villarreal’s defense, dribbling his way out before sending a heavenly pass to Sadio Mane, who further increased the lead. Sadio’s delicate touch was enough to direct the ball into the net. Mo Salah’s adventurous dribble against Villarreal’s defense was received very well by the Reds fans, as the Anfield roused to appreciate their hero. Liverpool had played exceptionally well with their attack while thrashing Villarreal’s defense in the second half. Thiago had shown an exceptional performance for the Reds. Completing 96 % of his passes, winning 7 duels, executing 2 successful dribbles, and adding 4 interceptions to his performance, the Spaniard dominated the midfield and the Reds managed to pull 19 shots and had 74% of possession in the game. The Reds completed 727 passes and Villarreal only managed to complete 272 passes. The Red’s defense choked Villarreal’s attack as their first shot at goal was taken in the 88th minute of the whole match.
These two teams will meet again on the 4th of May in El Madrigal. Villarreal will try to come back in the home game and try to stop Liverpool’s dream of the road to the final. Liverpool has a great chance to complete the quadruple after winning the Carabao Cup last month. The 2-goal lead is a safe play for Liverpool, but the Champions League has always launched surprise at us. Villarreal did defeat Juventus in the Round of 16 and made a giant killing by knocking the favorites Bayern Munich in the Quarter-final. Jurgen Klopp will be ready for the away game and will not let it go away easily. The question that arises is, Will the Reds manage to defend their lead? Or Will Villarreal play as the underdog and claim the ticket to the final?