Before entering the semi-finals Champions League, Villarreal is compared to the sure “lock” of Unai Emery (calling the famous “Catenaccio” defensive style). In this way, they beat Juventus in Turin (3-0) and drew Bayern in Munich (1-1).
Anfield is something unlike the places where Villarreal has caused earthquakes. The more than 51,000 spectators are difficult to compare with the 70,000 people at the Allianz Arena on April 12, but the level of enthusiasm is far beyond.
In one of Europe’s most glamorous stadiums, where the fans have a huge impact on Liverpool’s morale, Villarreal goes through a period of extreme testing of his stamina.
If in the first minutes of the first leg, the pressure that Liverpool created did not achieve maximum effectiveness. Jurgen Klopp’s players were unable to rotate the ball at the speed needed to penetrate the power-packed armor of Raul Albiol and Pau Torres.
The home team’s three midfielders had plenty of time to control the ball, but the space did not appear. Liverpool soon discovered that they were deadlocked in their offensive deployment.
Klopp gave his players a constant back and forth in midfield as a necessity to stretch out his low organized system. Villarreal. However, this solution is often interrupted by the actions of representatives from Spain.
In the face of the frenzy in the stands, the home team frantically moved positions, but the ball didn’t roll as quickly as they wanted or go through areas that could upset the away team’s defense.
With Chukwueze and Danjuma dropping deep to assist, Villarreal barely attacked other than showing stamina against one of Europe’s strongest sides.
Luck comes with bravery
Football is always risky, with any way of playing. Anfield broke Villarreal’s solid lock with a relatively unexpected situation, in the 53rd minute.
When Henderson made his 12th cross of the game, the ball hit Estupinan’s feet and changed trajectory, leaving goalkeeper Rulli moving up unable to save.
The score 1-0, not coming from a methodical arrangement, made the crowd at Anfield even more passionate. Nearly every seat vibrates at a pulsating volume. This more or less affected Villarreal’s mentality.
While Unai Emery’s army had not yet recovered and rearranged its formation, Liverpool Take the opportunity to make a difference. The second goal for The Kop came just 2 minutes later.
Mohamed Salah handled it very delicately and made an assist to tear the Villarreal defense, Sadio Mane escaped to break the offside trap and then reached out to finish with one touch to beat Rulli.
The goal made by two of the most outstanding stars in European football shows the bravery of Liverpool. Villarreal defended well, had commendable endurance, but the English port city team was simply too strong.
Liverpool completely owned the first leg of the semi-finals, crushing the opponent completely. The concentration in the game that Jurgen Klopp set forth, after lessons from Juventus and Bayern Munich, did not allow Villarreal any opportunity to counterattack.
“The difference in results could be bigger. In fact, we didn’t create any chances,” admitted coach Unai Emery. “This result forces us to think differently for the second leg.”
To turn the situation around, Villarreal needs to win 3-0 in the rematch next Tuesday night. But Liverpool is not Juventus for the “Golden Submarine” to dream about.
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