Villarreal v Liverpool: anatomy of a match-winner
Friday, April 29, 2016
A late goal earned Villarreal a 1-0 win against Liverpool; Bruno Soriano and Kolo Touré told UEFA.com about their roles in the big moment at El Madrigal.
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Matches can hinge on many fundamental moments other than simply goals scored. However, when a UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg is won 1-0 in the last seconds, it is impossible to single out anything else as the key to the match.
It is not often that, post-match, you can get the anatomy of such a vital winning goal from the main participants, but when Kolo Touré and the exceptional goal creator Bruno Soriano spoke to UEFA.com, that is what they helped provide.
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All night, the 32-year-old Spaniard and the 35-year-old Ivorian hit really high performance levels to position the tie on a razor edge, one prompting and seeking openings the other stemming the tide, organising a robust defence and squeezing out every last drop of his experience. Then came a handful of seconds when Bruno split the game wide open and Touré was left rueful – but full of optimism for the second leg.
Bruno: "Liverpool are physically very strong – a level up from almost any team I've played against before. They went tight with us, they challenged for every 50-50 ball with everything they had. We did well to cope and we had not only more, but better chances than them. Patience was a big factor. Normally we open teams up and it's not so hard to craft chances but Liverpool did tremendous defensive work."
Then came the breakthrough.
Bruno: "First of all it was a nice knock down from Adrián [López] who set the ball up for me. I took a couple of touches and set up my pass – then I saw Denis Suárez's run down the right into the full-back area. I wanted to float the ball not into space but right on to Denis's run. Initially, I thought that the defender [Touré] was just going to get his head to it and glance it away. But the flight of the ball was perfect. And the way Denis controlled the ball on the run was absolutely fundamental.
"Even if it is a different story in their stadium, that goal gives us a small but very important advantage. At Villarreal, we have always said that we need to reach a final and win it. Perhaps this can be the one."
The man who was beaten – narrowly – did not see things too differently.
Touré: "I saw the pass coming: it was a great pass. But their right midfielder made a run and Bruno was left completely on his own. He had time to make the pass. He wasn't pressed. I don’t want to pinpoint anyone around me but I was making extra cover. The ball was perfect. I wanted to jump to head it but at the last instant I just knew that if did I was going to miss it. And there was no cover at all. I was on my own against the striker and as a last defender you can't throw yourself and just dive in. You have to stay on your feet. That's what I tried to do. Plus there was just fantastic control from Suárez when the pass dropped.
"The first battle is done. The second battle is to come. With a performance like [the one] against Dortmund we can overturn this. Next week is a final and we have to give everything to try to smash this team. You can tell that they are really really happy but I'm saving the memory of their happiness up for next week. I like that. I like to see how happy they are right now."