Liverpool rebounded from a 0-2 score and set a record
When Villarreal lost away to Liverpool 0-2 and still guarded that goal difference, it might have seemed that the yellow submarine was doomed and simply could not play other than by dumb defense with no chances in front. But then Villarreal did not rush to save the game, keeping the return match in mind and knowing that open soccer at Anfield would have sentenced them to death.
As the return game proved, Unai Emery and his team had enough time to build a new plan. Considering that they are facing a times more powerful team that is having an outstanding season and has a two goal lead. The task for Villarreal, with their modest resources, seems impossible. But it was Jurgen Klopp’s team that helped.
Liverpool have not been this uncoordinated for a long time. At the end of the season, the Reds play with the utmost concentration, because the price of each game is already unbelievable. The fate of the whole tournament is at stake here – in every game. And Liverpool manage to play in every possible tournament. With so much internal tension, even the great masters and professionals can occasionally “switch off. This happened to Liverpool in the first half.
“The Reds were not like themselves. A huge percentage of mistakes, a lot of losses and individual errors, bad segments in which Villarreal literally squeezed the English in front of their penalty area. In addition, the Spaniards managed the main thing – to score a quick goal. Diah’s goal was the key determinant of Villarreal’s mood. On the third minute he got the proof that he was capable of a miracle.
As for Liverpool, conceded goal was not a trigger. Klopp’s team was so confident in themselves and convinced that their goal would come, that they were not particularly worried, allowing the Yellows to feed their faith in the rescue, to gather their strength and attack again and again. Before the break Coquelin already scored – then it became clear that Liverpool would not get off so easily. Here they could not reach, there they could not jump up, here they could not make a breakthrough – all these features distinguished the Reds in the first half. And that was gone after the break.
Klopp made the obvious switch, removing Jota from the field. In fact, such a beautiful Villarreal story in the first half might not have been there. Even when unassembled, Liverpool had excellent opportunities to score one or two goals. And it was Jota who ruined those chances. If he had converted a one-on-one, there would have been no need for excitement.
The Liverpool coach took drastic and correct action when he substituted Luis Diaz for Jota. Surely some work was also done to straighten out the other players who thought they were working too hard this season and deserved to play without proper concentration after winning the first semi-final.
Klopp’s work paid off, and Liverpool were significantly transformed after the break. Villarreal, on the other hand, had equalized on aggregate and, once again, decided to prove themselves to be a shutdown, counterattacking fighter. It worked against Bayern and Juventus. But it did not work against Liverpool on the road. And now it hasn’t either. After that game, we addressed some disappointing mistakes that let the Pitmen down. This time, there was also enough offense.
Starting with the first goal conceded by Villarreal. Here the blame can be laid on Rulli, who conceded the ball between the legs after a strike by Fabinho from a fairly sharp angle and not the closest distance. He had no time to close his legs in a situation where nine out of ten goalkeepers would have coped confidently with such a shot. And what happened next was almost a repetition of what happened at Anfield.
At that time, the first conceded goal knocked the Yellows out of the rut, and they immediately conceded the second one on the lack of concentration when setting up an offside line. And this time, too, on the second goal, which happened five minutes after the first, Alexander-Arnold’s feed went behind the defensive line on a rush by Diaz, who found himself alone. A very similar situation.
Having conceded the second goal, Villarreal had already frankly given up psychologically. Still, it is very difficult to play at the limit of mental strength in every match of the Champions League playoffs, overcoming the lack of skill through mental effort. It was very emotional to score two goals against Liverpool, overcoming the usual tactics. And when in five minutes all these incredible efforts are devalued – after that anyone would give up.
And then a ridiculous mistake by Rulli on the exit from the penalty area led to the third missed goal, and after a while the hero of the first half Kapu, who gave two assists, was sent off the field. Overall, everything fell apart for the hosts. But it does not detract from the merits of Villarreal, which had a delightful European campaign, and several times, being written off, managed to resurrect. Even against Liverpool.
The numerical indicators are the best way to characterize the change in the game at halftime. After all, all the shots taken by Villarreal happened in the first half. Yes, for the entire second half, the Yellows didn’t shoot towards Alisson’s goal once. Liverpool itself took only two shots in the first half and none on goal. That is, all of its shots were taken in the second part of the game. And largely thanks to Diaz, by the way, who was the most focused on goal with four shots.
Equality in possession reflects the same balance at the end of the game, broken down into different components by halves. Even in terms of attacks, there was equality in the end, with 40 on both sides. For example, in the first half, control was much better for Villarreal, who managed to work better with the ball, although they usually do not handle it at all – life forced them to overstep their usual tactics.
Liverpool, on the other hand, allowed too many losses, had few attacks and were often inaccurate. This inaccuracy was reflected in the overall statistics. Such pass accuracy percentages are very low for the Champions League at this stage, where they usually tend towards 90. At times, Liverpool’s accuracy fell below 70 percent in the first half.
The total number of passes is not impressive either – 240 for Villarreal and 320 for Liverpool. In good matches, the teams make 100-200 more accurate passes. Liverpool’s temporary loss of concentration has drastically reduced their effectiveness on the field. But all the more significant is the effort that Villarreal made in the first half, and the work Klopp did to get the team back in contention.