Liverpool reach UCL final after dramatic comeback against Villarreal
Liverpool have reached their third Champions League final in five seasons after staging a stunning second half comeback victory over Villarreal..
Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane were all on target for the Reds after the break as they sailed through to the final in Paris, where they will play the winners of Real Madrid’s clash against Manchester City on Wednesday.
The Reds were overwhelming favourites to progress to the final thanks to last week’s two-goal victory over the Spanish side at Anfield, whenever Jurgen Klopp’s side were dominant from start to finish. Yet they were left rocking from the start as Villarreal made the fast start that they needed.
In the third minute, Boulaye Dia gave the home side the lead after a cross from Pervis Estupinan found Etienne Capoue and the former Tottenham and Watford midfielder laid it on a plate for the Senegalese forward to coolly find the net.
It was a moment that the Reds struggled to respond to with all the first half pressure coming from the home side; Giovanni Lo Celso went down in the area under a challenge from Reds goalkeeper Alisson Becker, but play was waved on. Moments later, Villarreal doubled their lead on the night to draw level on aggregate as former Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin guided a header from Capoue’s cross beyond Alisson and into the net.
However, the home side’s energy levels appeared to drop significantly after the break with Liverpool enjoying much more possession and carving out opportunities. Just after the hour mark, Fabinho found space inside the area and his low shot went through the legs of Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli.
It was a goal that entirely deflated the home crowd and it was all one-way traffic for the remainder of the match. Second half substitute Diaz – who inspired the comeback – headed home the equaliser on the night as Rulli again let the ball go in through his legs before the Argentine shot-stopper completed his hat-trick of errors as the Reds grabbed a third. Mane ran through on goal and Rulli inexplicably rushed out, was beaten by Mane – who added the killer third goal. Capoue – who had provided the assists for both Villarreal goals – was sent-off with five minutes remaining for a second yellow card to rub salt into the home side’s wounds.
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