Liverpool booked their third Champions League final in five seasons after a chaotic 3-2 second leg win at Villarreal took them 5-2 on aggregate.
While the three-goal cushion might seem comfortable, it was a test of their mettle and recovery, as a terrible first half by their standards saw their first-leg advantage shattered by early goals in the competition of Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin.
But the half-time introduction of January signing Luis Diaz, who reinvigorated 2022 for Jurgen Klopp’s side, was a game-changer – aided and abetted by a distinctly ordinary goalkeeping performance from Geronimo Rulli of the hosts.
The Argentine was involved – or not – in all three Liverpool goals from Fabinho, Diaz and Sadio Mane in 12 second-half minutes and was culpable for at least two. Villarreal’s misery ended when Etienne Capoue was sent off for a second yellow card for a foul on Curtis Jones late in the game.
The Reds will face either Manchester City or Real Madrid in Paris at the end of May.
The Liverpool players were asked if they had a preference for who they would face in the final.
Virgil van Dijk – I don’t mind. Mohamed Salah – he wants Real Madrid.
Revenge on the mind?
What did he have 45 minutes…
What was Klopp’s message in the first half?
Virgil van Dijk has revealed that Jurgen Klopp simply told his players to be themselves at half-time.
It looked like a terrible night for Liverpool – they came out after the break and changed all that.
“Play football, play the Liverpool way,” Van Dijk said of the half-time message.
“Play like we’ve done all season. Get on the ball, have a lot of movement in the box and behind the high line. But also show how badly you really want to go to the final. That’s how it starts.
“In the second half we dominated and we played so well.”
Another nervous semi-final…
It was another eventful semi-final for Liverpool to add to their collection in recent years. They won’t care now!
“We don’t take it easy on these Champions League semi-finals: Roma away, Barca at home and now here,” Alexander-Arnold said.
“They played very well in the first half, but we grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half and did what we had to do.
“We expected it to be difficult in the first half. Sometimes you can’t control the game the way you want. But we did and we booked our ticket to Paris.
Alexander-Arnold’s post-match reaction…
“We didn’t play football in the first half, we didn’t collect the second balls. They played the game they wanted and we allowed them to do it. It was difficult for us.
“In the second half we played as we were supposed to and controlled the game much better. A bad half on both legs… we can concede that as long as we get the job done.
“It’s always nice to get the job done on Tuesday, so we can watch tomorrow’s game knowing we’re already there. It could be another amazing game. Either opponent deserves to go to the final, so I can’t wait to see who we get.
The Villarreal players took a tour of the pitch after the match and were greeted brilliantly by the fans.
Disappointing end to this tie for them, everything fell apart in 12 minutes.
But they can be so proud of their efforts – they scared Liverpool. Few have rocked Jurgen Klopp’s side like this this season.
Goal that crowned it all…
Get these Reserved Tickets Liverpool Fans…
FT: Villarreal 2-3 Liverpool (2-5 on aggregate)
What a tie!
It’s a third Champions League final in five seasons for Liverpool. They had to really work for it, but in the end it was an absolute cruise.