Liverpool 2-0 Villarreal: Champions League semi-final advantage for Jurgen Klopp’s side after dominant Anfield win

Liverpool produced a convincing performance to defeat Villarreal 2-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final at Anfield.

After a goalless first half, Pervis Estupinan’s 53rd-minute own goal brought the breakthrough before Sadio Mane added a second just two minutes later to hammer home the advantage.

It was thoroughly deserved with Unai Emery’s side struggling to contain Liverpool throughout and Jurgen Klopp will be confident of reaching another Champions League final.

Player ratings

Liverpool Alisson (6), Alexander-Arnold (7), Konate (7), Van Dijk (7), Robertson (8), Henderson (8), Fabinho (7), Thiago (8), Salah (8), Mane (8), Diaz (8).

Subs: Keita (6), Jota (6), Gomez (6), Origi (6).

Villarreal: Rulli (4), Foyth (6), Albiol (6), Torres (6), Estupinan (5), Parejo (6), Capoue (6), Coquelin (5), Chukwueze (6), Lo Celso (6), Groeneveld (6).

Subs: Pedraza (6), Trigueros (6), Dia (6), Aurier (6), Iborra (6).

Man of the match: Thiago.

Liverpool had too much for Villarreal

Liverpool attacked from the outset with the best chance of the opening 45 minutes falling to Mane early on. He could only head wide from Mohamed Salah’s cross.

With Villarreal defending deep, it required pressing and patience, Luis Diaz harrying the opposition and Thiago setting the tempo with his ever-impressive passing.

Ideas exhausted towards the end of the half, Thiago let fly from distance and smacked the post. It was as close as Liverpool came before the break with Villarreal holding firm.

Still pushing, there was brief excitement early in the second half when Fabinho put the ball into the back of the net from close range but Virgil van Dijk was offside in the build-up.

But an expectant Anfield did not have to wait much longer.

Team news

Liverpool made three changes from the weekend with Luis Diaz, Ibrahim Konate and Jordan Henderson recalled to the side.

Jordan Henderson’s deflected cross gave Liverpool a second-half lead

The breakthrough goal was an ugly one when it came, Jordan Henderson’s right-wing cross looping beyond a flailing Geronimo Rulli after deflecting off the foot of Estupinan.

That appeared to break Villarreal’s resolve because within moments Mane had prodded the ball into the net from close range when put through by the enterprising Salah.

There were further half chances with the impressive Diaz dragging an attempt wide but the game was played out without further incident, Alisson untested and the home side’s superiority clear.

The Villarreal supporters, clad in yellow, had been a colourful addition to the city, enjoying their trip to Liverpool – and the semi-finals. But there was little to cheer them upon kick-off.

This Liverpool team just looks too good. Who can stop them now?

What’s next?

Liverpool’s hectic schedule continues as they travel to Newcastle for the lunchtime kick-off in the Premier League on Saturday, knowing they cannot afford to slip up if they are to catch Manchester City.

The return leg of this Champions League semi-final takes place on Tuesday evening.

Liverpool’s remaining fixtures

April 30 – Newcastle United (a)

May 3 – Villarreal (a), Champions League semi-final second leg

May 7 – Tottenham (h)

May 10 – Aston Villa (a), live on Sky Sports

May 14 – Chelsea (n), FA Cup final

May 17 – Southampton (a), live on Sky Sports

May 22 – Wolves (h)

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