Luis Diaz made a telling impact after coming on as a substitute as Liverpool survived a scare to beat Villarreal 3-2 and qualify for the Champions League final.
Having entered the game with a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, Liverpool were pegged back very early by Villarreal, who took the lead at Estadio de la Ceramica within three minutes as Boulaye Dia slotted home from close range. The hosts continued to cause problems to the Reds’ defence and even had a penalty shout turned away.
But with five minutes left in the first half, Unai Emery’s men erased Liverpool’s aggregate lead as Francis Coquelin rose the highest to head home Etienne Capoue’s cross. Jurgen Klopp must have had some stern words to his players at the half-time break as the visitors came out reinvigorated and looked much more menacing, thanks to the introduction of Luis Diaz, who made life difficult for Villarreal.
After Trent Alexander-Arnold came close to opening Liverpool’s account on the night, the first goal finally came in the 62nd minute when Fabinho fired an effort into the back of the net through the legs of goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli. Five minutes later, the Reds were level on the night as the lively Diaz headed home from Alexander-Arnold’s cross, with Rulli once again letting the ball get through between his legs.
With an aggregate scoreline of 2-4, Liverpool looked to have booked a place in the finals of the Champions League before Sadio Mane added another goal in the 74th minute to secure a comeback win for the Merseyside giants on the night while adding more sheen to the aggregate scoreline. The result means Liverpool’s hopes of a quadruple continue to burn bright. Here are our player ratings for Klopp’s men after a thriller in Spain.
Liverpool Player Ratings
Alisson Becker: 5.5/10
The Brazilian was left exposed by his defence in the early stages and could not have done anything to stop Villarreal’s goals in the first period. He could have given away a penalty between the two strikes when he collided with Giovani Lo Celso, but the referee decided in his favour.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 6/10
The Liverpool right-back had some problems defensively in the first half and was easily outjumped by Coquelin for Villarreal’s second goal of the night. However, he redeemed himself with a fine assist for Diaz’s goal in the second half, after hitting the woodwork with a deflected strike.
Ibrahima Konate: 6/10
The Frenchman was preferred over Joel Matip on the night but was far from his best in the first period, with his poor distribution inviting pressure on the team. Konate improved a great deal after the break though, and was solid for the rest of the game.
Virgil van Dijk: 6/10
The Liverpool captain on the night, van Dijk was caught on his heels for the Villarreal opener and he looked rattled at times as the hosts ramped up the pressure. However, the Dutchman eventually regained his composure and mopped up things effectively for the rest of the game.
Andrew Robertson: 4/10
— Andy Robertson (@andrewrobertso5) May 3, 2022
The Scotsman endured a torrid first half as he allowed Capoue to ghost in at the post to set Dia up for the opening goal. Robertson then failed to stop the Frenchman from crossing for Coquelin for Villarreal’s second of the game. While he did improve after the break, the left-back did not offer much going forward either and was taken off.
Naby Keita: 6/10
Preferred ahead of captain Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita endured a poor first period and almost gifted Villarreal a goal with a poor backpass. The Guinean midfielder fought his way back into the game though, and played a part in Liverpool’s third goal.
The Brazilian midfielder was unable to quell the hosts’ pressure in the first period and was generally found lacking in his defensive duties for the first 45 minutes. However, he improved drastically in the second half and got Liverpool back into the tie with a fine finish that made it 2-1.
Our lighthouse tipping the #UCL semi-final tie back in our favour ❤
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 4, 2022
Thiago Alcantara: 6/10
Like most of the Liverpool side, Thiago also endured a difficult first period as his passing radar was not as accurate as it can be, while he also looked a bit leggy and off-pace when not in possession. However, the midfielder improved after the game and helped Liverpool mount a comeback.
Mohamed Salah: 6/10
The Liverpool superstar failed to have any sort of impact in the first half as Villarreal ensured that he was kept quiet. While he was not at his devastating best after the break either, Salah made a vital contribution by setting Fabinho up for the first goal.
Diogo Jota: 4/10
A near-anonymous display from the Portuguese forward who offered little in terms of goal threat while his hold-up play was also not good enough on the night. Unsurprisingly, he was taken off at half-time.
Sadio Mane: 7/10
Mane making history.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 3, 2022
The Player to Watch in our match preview, Mane, like the rest of the team, had a quiet first period during which he tried to make things happen but little came off for him. However, the Senegalese speedster stepped up after the break and scored the third goal with a composed finish after rounding Rulli.
Luis Diaz: 9/10
Luis Díaz's game by numbers vs. Villarreal:
100% take-ons completed
90% pass accuracy
4 touches in the opp. box
4 take-ons completed (=most)
4 shots (most)
3 x possession won
GAME. CHANGER. pic.twitter.com/q4sNY0FJ4x
— Squawka (@Squawka) May 3, 2022
The game-changer for Liverpool. Introduced at half-time for Jota, Diaz changed the complexion of the game with his direct running at the Villarreal defence that put them on the backfoot. The Colombian international made it 2-2 with a headed effort and was generally the biggest attacking threat for Liverpool. What a brilliant signing he has been for the Reds.
Jordan Henderson: N/A
The Liverpool captain replaced Keita for the last ten minutes.
Kostas Tsimikas: N/A
Tsimikas came on for Robertson in the 80th minute.
Curtis Jones: N/A
Jones came on for Thiago in the 80th minute and came close to scoring a fourth.
James Milner: N/A
Late sub for Fabinho.