Liverpool’s intense pressing style worked Villarreal into submission as Liverpool overcame the Spanish side 3-0 to reach the Europa League final.
Following the last-gasp first-leg victory over Liverpool, Villarreal coach Marcelino saw fit to make two changes to his starting line-up for the second-leg at Anfield.
Eric Bailly wasn’t deemed fit enough to start with Mateo Musacchio taking his place, whilst Alphonse Areola was brought in for Sergio Asenjo.
Jurgen Klopp made the same number of changes as Emre Can’s return to the starting line-up was a huge boost to an already enthused Anfield crowd.
Liverpool, buoyed by their home support, worked tirelessly from the first whistle. Klopp’s famed counter-pressing was in full force as Liverpool took the lead inside six minutes.
A panicked Villarreal defence failed to clear their lines after a whipped cross from the left side of the penalty area as captain Bruno was caught unaware when the ball bounced off his thigh and into the net.
Areola’s inability to regain his composure saw nerves run through the defensive line as Liverpool harried, forcing mistake after mistake.
In a first-half of very few chances, the visitors grew into the game and found their defensive structure, although Liverpool’s pressing showed no signs of slowing down.
The second-half began in much the same vein as the first ended, with few chances, although Roberto Soldado fired a header wide just after the break. The tie seemed to have been sucked into a defensive stalemate with the pressure of reaching a European final getting to both teams.
That was until Daniel Sturridge put Liverpool 2-0 up after the hour mark with a cool side-footed finish. Villarreal will no doubt feel disappointed that the ball fell to him inside the penalty area courtesy of a deflected shot.
With Liverpool in full control, frustration got the better of Victor Ruiz who was sent off after 70 minutes for a second yellow card after a late kick out at Adam Lallana.
Ironically it would be Lallana who booked Liverpool’s place in the final with a flicked finish into an unguarded net from just four yards out.