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Villarreal 2-3 Liverpool (agg: 2-5): Reds' comeback sinks Yellow Submarine

Second-half goals from Fabinho, Luis Díaz and Sadio Mané sent Liverpool to the Champions League final after they had trailed 2-0 at the break in Spain.

Highlights: Villarreal 2-3 Liverpool

Liverpool recovered from 2-0 down to win at Villarreal in their UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg and progress 5-2 on aggregate, reaching a third final in five years.

Key moments

3' Dia converts Capoue cut-back
41' Coquelin header levels aggregate score
Fabinho drills through Rulli's legs
67' Luis Díaz heads Reds equaliser on night
74' Mané streaks clear to seal Reds' progress
86' Capoue sent off for two bookings

Match in brief: Ruthless Reds weather storm

Fabinho is mobbed after his goal for Liverpool
Fabinho is mobbed after his goal for LiverpoolGetty Images

The general consensus was that Villarreal needed to score first, preferably early on, and they did just that in front of an ecstatic Estadio de la Cerámica crowd. Pervis Estupiñán's arcing cross in the third minute caught Liverpool out at the back post with Étienne Capoue prodding the ball back for Boulaye Dia to tap in.

Jürgen Klopp's men were uncommonly flustered in possession and Villarreal exploited their nervousness again four minutes before the interval to level the tie. Capoue was again the creator, turning adroitly on the byline before clipping a cross to the back post, where the towering Francis Coquelin escaped the attention of Trent Alexander-Arnold to glance in.

However, Unai Emery's men could not maintain their intensity after half-time and Liverpool turned the tide. Alexander-Arnold's deflected shot had already clipped the bar before Fabinho struck in the 62nd minute, drilling his low shot through the legs of Gerónimo Rulli. It was a blow from which Villarreal never recovered.

Five minutes later, half-time substitute Luis Díaz levelled on the night by heading in Alexander-Arnold's cross and Sadio Mané galloped away to complete the turnaround after reaching a through ball before the onrushing Rulli. Capoue's late red card compounded the hosts' misery.

PlayStation® Player of the Match: Luis Díaz (Liverpool)

Player of the Match: Luis Díaz

"Díaz made a major impact that changed the game. He scored and was a constant threat."
UEFA Technical Observer panel

As it happened: Villarreal 2-3 Liverpool

Graham Hunter, Villarreal reporter

This is a wise club, one which hasn't just grown in stature and achievements during the 25 years of Fernando Roig being in charge. Villarreal have character, intelligence and heaps of accumulated experience. They'll know how to manage defeat. The powerful sadness of losing to Liverpool will be measured against the immense achievements of eliminating greats like Juventus and Bayern, reaching the Champions League semi-final, and the almost immeasurable good this club's name, this community's worldwide visibility, has been done by the men in yellow. Endavant Villarreal.

Matthew Howarth, Liverpool reporter

They did it the hard way, but Liverpool eventually booked their ticket to Paris thanks to a vastly improved second-half display. The Reds’ first-half performance was their worst of the campaign so far, but the introduction of Luis Díaz – who has made such an impact since his January arrival – helped swing the tie back in the visitors' favour. No matter who Jürgen Klopp's team face in the final, they simply cannot afford to start as slowly as they did here.


Klopp delight at Liverpool 'reaction'

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool defender: "We never picked up any of the second balls at all in the first half. They played the game they wanted to and we allowed them to do that. In the second half we played the way we needed to play. One poor half over two legs, we can allow that as long as we get the job done."

Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool defender: "The first half we should forget as soon as possible. On the ball we weren't good enough. The early goal didn't help us and it helped them massively, so we had to dig deep and be very mature. Second half we played outstandingly. We won the ball back as quickly as possible and it was difficult for them to keep up with the pace and runs. It was a deserved win based on the second-half performance."

Peter Crouch, BT Sport

"Luis Díaz changed the game. From the moment he came on he was getting at players. The Villarreal players had a lap of honour and they deserve it. The way they beat Juventus and Bayern, they've been a credit to the club."

Raúl Albiol, Villarreal defender: "It wasn't to be tonight but the effort our team put in was incredible, immense. Their first goal did us so much damage. We paid dearly for the huge effort we put in during the first half when we played so well. We dropped our level, physically, after the break and we were made to pay for that."

Gerard Moreno, Villarreal striker: "We really have to be proud of what we've done here because the team believed and kept on giving everything right until the final whistle. We played incredibly in the first half – maybe our best ever first half."

Key stats

All Liverpool's goals en route to the Champions League final
  • Villarreal had only scored three goals in their previous 13 matches against English clubs in the UEFA Champions League (group stage to final) prior to this game.
  • Coquelin's goal was his first in the Champions League and only his second in European competition in his 62 appearances. His only other goal in Europe was for Freiburg versus Slovan Liberec in November 2013.
  • Liverpool have scored two or more goals in 11 of their 12 Champions League matches this season.
  • Mané is now the top African scorer in the Champions League knockout phase outright. His tally of 15 moves him ahead of Didier Drogba.
  • Mané's goal was Liverpool's 139th of the campaign. It set a new Reds record for most goals scored in a single season, breaking their tally of 138 from 1985/86.
  • The Reds now have ten aggregate wins from their last 11 European Cup/Champions League semi-finals.
  • On each of the nine occasions that Liverpool have won the first leg at home 2-0 in UEFA competition, they have gone on to win the tie.

Fantasy star performers

Fabinho – 9
Luis Díaz – 8
Francis Coquelin – 7
Sadio Mané - 7


Villarreal: Rulli: Foyth, Albiol (Aurier 79), Pau Torres, Estupiñán (Trigueros 79); Lo Celso, Parejo, Capoue, Coquelin (Pedraza 68); Gerard Moreno (Chukwueze 68), Dia (Alcácer 79)

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konaté, Van Dijk, Robertson (Tsimikas 80); Keïta (Henderson 80), Fabinho (Milner 84), Thiago Alcántara (Jones 80); Salah, Mané, Diogo Jota (Luis Díaz 46)