The Star (Jamaica)

Liverpool survive scare, advance to CL final

- VILLARREAL, Spain (AP):

Liverpool players stared at each other in disbelief. By the bench, manager Jürgen Klopp watched in awe.

Just like that, Liverpool had squandered a two-goal lead from the first leg of the Champions League semi- finals against Villarreal, and their spot in the final was suddenly in jeopardy.

Would Liverpool be the latest powerhouse to be stunned by the modest Spanish club? Would its bid for a seventh European title end in disappoint­ment?

Luckily for the English club, it was only a scare.

Liverpool rallied in the second half to defeat Villarreal 3-2 and reach their third Champions League final in five seasons yesterday. They advanced 5-2 on aggregate at the La Cerámica Stadium.

“You could see how impressed we were with them in the first half,” said Klopp, who will be making his fourth Champions League final appearance as coach, joint-most with Miguel Muñoz, Alex Ferguson, Carlo

Ancelotti and Marcello Lippi. “To come back and win in the second is really impressive.”

After Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin put Villarreal ahead by the 41st minute, Fabinho, substitute Luis

Díaz and Sadio Mané scored in the second half to propel Liverpool into the final for the first time since winning their sixth European title in 2019. It will be Liverpool’s 10th final in Europe’s top club competitio­n.

Unai Emery’s team played a man down from the 86th after Étienne Capoue, who assisted on both Villarreal’s goals, was sent off with a second yellow card.

Liverpool will play the May 28 final in Paris against either Premier League rivals Manchester City or 13- time European champions Real Madrid. They will meet today in Madrid with City defending a 4- 3 win from the first leg in England.

The victory also keeps alive Liverpool’s hopes of a “quadruple” – winning all four major trophies in one season.

The visitors were dominant in the first leg but looked lost yesterday as Villarreal came out pressing early. The hosts won almost every 50- 50 ball and stayed near the Liverpool area without giving up much space for counter-attacks.

It didn’t take long for Villarreal to cut into the first- leg deficit as Dia opened the scoring from close range after a pass by Capoue in the third minute.

Villarreal wanted a penalty kick after Giovani Lo Celso collided with Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker, but a few moments later they got the second goal with a header by former Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin into the top corner after a well-placed right-flank cross by Capoue.

The Liverpool defence looked flat-footed on both goals, leaving space for the Villarreal players to finish into the net.

 ?? AP ?? Liverpool’s Fabinho celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the Champions League semi-final second leg between Villarreal and Liverpool at the Ceramica stadium in Villarreal, Spain yesterday.
AP Liverpool’s Fabinho celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the Champions League semi-final second leg between Villarreal and Liverpool at the Ceramica stadium in Villarreal, Spain yesterday.

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