Liverpool seized the advantage in their Champions League semifinal clash against Villarreal by registering a comfortable 2-0 victory at Anfield in a midweek duel that saw their opponents barely able to lay a glove on them.

With a quadruple very much still on the cards, the Reds dominated proceedings, though it took 53 minutes and a hint of fortune for them to finally break through Unai Emery’s stubborn Yellow blockade.

Ogden: Liverpool dominate but wary of comeback
Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
– Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access

Indeed, the opening goal came via an own goal from defender Pervis Estupinan, who inadvertently deflected a Jordan Henderson cross over his goalkeeper to put the home side ahead.

With Villarreal’s guard down, Liverpool then took just 133 seconds to add their second goal of the evening when Mohamed Salah wriggled into a pocket of space on the edge of the box and slid a pass into the path of Sadio Mane, who duly nipped in behind the back line to prod home from close range.

In doing so, Mane took his tally in Champions League knockout games to 14, thereby drawing level with former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba as the joint-highest-scoring African player in the latter stages of the competition.

Another standout performer for Liverpool on the night was Thiago Alcantara, who once again made it his business to conduct traffic from the centre of midfield.

The industrious Spain international ended the game with an incredible pass completion rate of 96.1% from 103 passes attempted (his highest in the competition this season) which in turn produced a hectic pass map that looked more like a work of abstract line art.

With a first-leg victory over Villarreal constituting their ninth win in the Champions League this season, Liverpool have now won more European games in a single season than ever before (excluding any preliminary qualifiers).

Indeed, the Reds only had to win eight games en route when they last lifted the trophy when beating Tottenham in the 2018-19 final.

The result against Emery’s side also maintained Liverpool’s formidable record of never having lost in a Champions League or European Cup semifinal at Anfield, having won 10 and drawn two of the dozen last-four ties to take place on Merseyside.

Just to further assert their dominance over the local footballing landscape, Jurgen Klopp’s ebullient team have accrued more victories in Europe this campaign (nine wins in 11 games) than rivals Everton have mustered in the Premier League (eight in 32).

As for Klopp, the Reds’ coach can now boast one of the very best records in the Champions League when it comes to winning at home in the semifinals, with the German having secured victory in all four of his fixtures.

He joins Euro luminaries Marcello Lippi and Ottmar Hitzfeld as the only managers in competition history to have a 100% win record when it comes to home-leg semis.

Liverpool will travel to Spain for the second leg next week but given their rampant form it looks almost certain that they will be set to face either Manchester City or Real Madrid in the final in Paris on May 28.

Given that Villarreal managed to produce just one solitary shot on Alisson‘s goal in the first leg at Anfield — the joint-lowest tally recorded by any side in a Champions League semifinal — it doesn’t much look like a potential upset is brewing.

Source link