Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said on Tuesday that he is incredibly proud of his side’s victory at Villarreal in their Champions League semi-final 2nd leg outing. Liverpool reached their 3rd Champions League final in 5 years when they fought back from behind to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the second leg to win the tie 3-2 and book a ticket to Paris with an aggregate victory of 5-2 against the Spanish side.
Liverpool, who had headed into the 2nd leg tie with a 2-0 lead from England, were stunned early. Rallied on by the home crowd, Villarreal played the brand of football that helped them knock out Juventus and Bayern Munich in the premier European competition.
Unai Emery’s men could not do much last week at Anfield but backed by the home support, Villarreal went 2-0 and leveled the Champions League semi-final tie. Goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin on a rain-soaked pitch gave Villarreal fans belief as Liverpool went into the break with concerned faces.
Liverpool, however, came out transformed after halftime and goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane sealed the deal, with Villarreal ending the match with 10 men following a late red card for Etienne Capoue. It was stunning to see the change in mentality from Liverpool as they rallied against the home crowd to overturn the deficit and book a place in the final.
“Outstanding, massive, feels like it is the first (UEFA Champions League final that Jurgen Klopp has been involved in with Liverpool), to be honest, because it is always so special and it is, for me, the best club competition in the world. Love it, love the sounds everything, love the night – respect to Villarreal,” Klopp said after Liverpool’s victory.
Klopp’s side will meet either Real Madrid or Manchester City, who contest the second leg of their semi-final on Wednesday, in the showpiece in Paris on May 28. City lead 4-3 from the first leg.
“The (Villarreal) players, how they put us under pressure, everything is great. So it feels so special because it was so difficult for us, but, in the end, we deserved it (the victory) as well and that is really cool.
“And it was massive, massive from the (Liverpool) boys.
“So, before the game, I told the boys I would like to read the headlines, which is that ‘the mentality monsters were in town’, just because I wanted us to be, from the first moment, not like somebody who defends the result, but goes for the three points or for the win. I could not see that (in the first-half), but the second-half was like this, and I am not 100 percent sure what I asked for in Spanish – I think it is ‘mentalidad monstruos’ or something like that,” Klopp added.
Relentless pressure from Villarreal in the first half forced Liverpool into mistakes they do not usually make, with the visitors’ passing accuracy of 66% the lowest they have managed in the first half of a game in all competitions this season.
Villarreal leveled the tie with a close-range header from Coquelin and looked on the verge of a miracle comeback.
The hosts even had a penalty appeal waved away by referee Danny Makkelie in the 38th minute when Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker came out to smother the ball and then bundled it into Giovani Lo Celso inside the area.
Things changed when Klopp brought Diaz off the bench at the break and the in-form Colombian winger changed the dynamic of the game, finding space and taking advantage of a Villarreal side that seemed to have run out of gas.
“With 500 games like it feels that the boys have played, it is completely normal that a situation in the first-half can happen (Villarreal led 2-0), but reacting like we reacted (in the second-half) made it really special again (Liverpool ended up winning 3-2). And I am really happy about it,” Klopp added.