It’s one thing to be passionate about another, another quite to count. Liverpool did very well until the end of the 10th European Cup last night when they refused to forget their plans; which has brought them to the point where there were four possible children.
Villarreal was disappointed. It was a tactic that worked in previous competitions, helping them to beat Juventus and Bayern Munich. With goals that were disqualified at the time, Unai Emery, the manager, felt he was part of the spoils system.
Liverpool remained well. They continued to press on the front of the foot, directing the ball, only with increased speed, more feeling. And he slammed the doors and blew two shots in a row, the first time Jordan Henderson’s guide diverted Pervis Estupiñán to escape a football player, Gerónimo Rulli, knocking him to a corner.
This was the first time Liverpool had done a real merger and, Villarreal, shaken, dropped what looked like a terrific hit. Emery’s team was deeply affected in the first half, unbeaten. Now he saw Mohamed Salah carrying a ticket from Trent Alexander-Arnold and turning, eyes wide open, realizing the potential.
Sadio Mané heard again. He moved, Salah played with him, and stabbed him in the legs of Pau Torres, and Mané stretched out to finish quickly, before anyone could get close to him. The ball hit slightly past Rulli.
Villarreal’s travel support was determined to enjoy the event and what a privilege it was for them. They are the team that did not play the best football in Spain until 1998-99; that town whose inhabitants could live within Anfield. In seventh place in La Liga, Villarreal have won just one major trophy – the Europa League last season. This was one of David’s biggest stories against Goliath during the Champions League.
The 3,000 roaming fans cheered their team on the game and after the whistle was blown all the time but it seemed like it was far from them on the second track next Tuesday, even though they were talking sarcastically from their dressing room. Liverpool have missed just one of the required results from January 2 – 2-2 Premier League against Manchester City on April 10. He did not concede two goals throughout the season.
Liverpool had to show patience after their initial efforts did not lead to a win. They probably did. Mané failed to direct after Ibrahima Konaté came down from the corner – the ball came to him quickly – but a great chance to start when Salah gathered Mané passed to the right and looked up. Mané climbed up, Salah’s cross was fine but the whole head was wrong.
Emery’s side – solid in their 4-4-2 system – did not cross the line but it was because Liverpool did not let them in, their tough game often proved difficult. For Villarreal, it was about blocks and barriers, keeping shape.
Emery, who beat Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp and Sevilla at the end of the 2016 Europa League, could boast of his players’ stability on the ball sometimes in the first half when they try to play. But Liverpool had another chance.
Salah chased the target, Mané turned and saw a gunshot, while Salah raised the volley high. He was selected by Alexander-Arnold the best scorer following Andy Robertson diagonal. Thiago Alcantara also tackled a straight line from 30 yards.
Villarreal clings to Liverpool spiritually. Their name Yellow Submarine comes from the color of their coats and the music of Liverpool’s well-known band. The Beatles released it in 1966 and, in the 1967-68 season, the Villarreal fan team started playing in their club games on a battery-powered record player.
The Anfield crowd didn’t feel very connected but football was a style game and Liverpool had to deal with this. They found a way in the second half.
Fabinho noticed that the goal was not followed after a corner, Virgil van Dijk came to him from the defensive zone, and there was a good chance at the goal, although Liverpool would argue that they drove on their own. Walking left to right, Henderson took a pass to Salah and a strike from Estupiñán was necessary.
When Mané hit, it was possible to fear Villarreal, Liverpool feeling bloody. Robertson had the ball in the net that was just returned for the following, Van Dijk worked for Rulli and Luis Díaz approached twice. Two goals sounded good enough.