Liverpool take control of the semifinal with Anfield win
Liverpool cruised to a 2-0 victory over Villarreal in the Champions League semifinal first leg at Anfield on Wednesday, thanks to a deflected Jordan Henderson effort and a Sadio Mane strike.
The visitors were stubborn in the first half but fell apart in the second when Henderson’s deflected cross soared over goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli – eventually ruled as an own goal by Pervis Estupinan – and Mane tapped home shortly afterwards.
Villarreal have had an incredible run through the competition’s knockout stages as they surprised Juventus and Bayern Munich in the previous two rounds. But Jurgen Klopp’s side were rarely disturbed as they despatched the Spanish club to go a significant step closer to the final.
Liverpool are hoping to reach their third Champions League final in five years after winning the competition in 2019.
“They are a very organised team and we knew they would make it difficult. It was just important that we kept going and believed that we would eventually break them down. We did that with two good goals,” Henderson said afterward.
“Majority of the game, our counter-press was really good. It made it difficult for them. But the game is still alive and it will be tough in Villarreal.”
Mane had the best chance in an uneventful first half that saw the majority of the action take place in Villarreal’s half. Mane sprinted into the penalty area as Mohamed Salah delivered a floating cross toward the six-yard box, but the 30-year-old attacker failed to make the necessary contact to direct a header toward goal.
On 50 minutes, Liverpool thought they had broken the deadlock when Fabinho scored, but defender Virgil van Dijk was adjudged to be offside as he headed to set up the midfielder.
Klopp’s team maintained control and were well rewarded when Henderson scored on 53 minutes. The midfielder appeared to deliver a cross from near the right corner flag, but it took a fortunate deflection from Estupinan and looped into the net.
Mane doubled the advantage with a prodded finish only two minutes later after Salah rolled the ball into his path inside the box.