Luis Diaz’s drive and Jurgen Klopp’s audacity keep the Liverpool four in the game with a place in the Champions League final

VILLARREAL, Spain – Liverpool continue to chase after four. Although they can now prepare for the 10th Champions League final later this month, against Manchester City or Real Madrid in Paris, another display of the club’s incredible resilience in European competition was needed on Tuesday to record a 3-2 victory against Villarreal at the Estadio de la Ceramica.

Jurgen Klopp’s team was so bad in the first half – they beat, outplayed and outplayed the Spanish opponent – that the goals Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin gave Villarreal a 2-0 lead, nullifying Liverpool’s two-goal lead in last week’s first leg. Liverpool’s three touches to Villarreal’s frame before half-time were their smallest in the first half of the season in all competitions.

That referee Danny Makkelie awarded a penalty for the home side in the 37th minute – four minutes before Coquelin’s header – after goalkeeper Alisson Becker seemed to have knocked him down Giovani Lo CelsoLiverpool could have fallen behind 3-0 at half-time, and their season is threatening to implode in the face of a blizzard of 23,000 yellow flags.

But Klopp’s decision to replace Diogo Jota with Luis Diaz on vacation he turned the game in Liverpool’s favor as the Colombian winger transformed his team’s approach from obedience to aggressive ambition.

Diaz ran at Villarreal, slowing their pace in the first half and allowing Liverpool to take control of the game. Until then, the goalkeeper of Villarreal Geronimo Rulli gave Klopp’s side a helping hand through a series of costly mistakes, Diaz changed the momentum and made it inevitable for Liverpool to reach the third Champions League final in five seasons.

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“Going back like we came back in the second half was really special,” Klopp said. Luis (Diaz) had a huge impact – Diogo Jota was not a problem in the first half, we had 11 problems. We just needed to mix a little. I wanted the players to be monsters of the mentality from the first minute, but Villarreal took all the risks in the first half and we had to solve the football problem.

“We have reached the finals, but the three competitions are not over yet. The finals are appearing in our schedule and we have to be ready for them, but it will be difficult.”

While the record books will show that Liverpool reached Paris with an overall 5-2 victory, the passage to the finals was anything but certain at half-time at the small Villarreal Stadium.

Liverpool completed the so-called “Istanbul Miracle” by retaliating 3-0 against AC Milan for the 2005 Champions League final, and reversed the 3-0 deficit in the first game with a 4-0 win at Anfield 4-0 against Barcelona in the 2019 semi-final. that a return to the second half against last season’s Europa League winners has some way of coinciding with their previous epic glorious evenings.

But this win and performance will go into Liverpool’s folklore as it has provided proof of qualities that are often overlooked due to the world-class quality of Klopp’s team.

To achieve great things, all athletes or teams have to overcome some kind of adversity along the way, and that was undoubtedly a test of Liverpool’s determination and fighting spirit.

Liverpool knocked badly in the first half. Villarreal coach Unai Emery sent his team with a game plan to keep pressing Liverpool and putting a lot of pressure on their defense. After 85 minutes, a mistake by the home side’s left defense allowed Etienne Capoue to get through. Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin were outstanding, while Lo Celso found the space to make holes in Liverpool’s defense.

In advance, Gerard Moreno and Dia tormented Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate. Villarreal have also profited from falling behind on the right side of Liverpool, where they are both Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold they did not perform their defensive duties. Diana’s opening in the third minute after Capoue’s break gave Emery’s team the conviction that they could hurt Liverpool and they dominated the game, with Coquelin scoring 2-0 in the 41st minute.

That led to probably Klopp’s most important half-time of the season, and he took the lead by introducing Diaz, who has been a sensation since his signing for £ 50million from Porto in January.

After Diaz crashed from the left, Liverpool began to gain possession and create chances, and in the tie they regained the overall lead when Fabinho shot through Rully’s legs in the 62nd minute.

Five minutes later, Diaz headed in Alexander-Arnold and scored 2-2 that night and 4-2 on the overall score before Sadio Mane scored in the 74th minute after Rulli ran out of his area and missed the ball badly.

After being on the verge of relegation, Liverpool reversed the score within half an hour simply because of the coach’s courage and the team’s ability to get into higher gear.

Only the best teams can do that so quickly and with such devastating effect – and Liverpool is in that rank. But also Manchester City and Real Madrid, who meet in Madrid on Wednesday to decide who will face Liverpool on May 28.

Real have had their memorable fights against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea this season, but City have yet to be tested that way. However, if Liverpool face City in Paris, there will be no question mark about the mentality of Klopp and his players – and the opposition will know.

That’s why this win at Villarreal was so important. A message was sent to the others that Liverpool never know when they have been defeated and that they could therefore end up with four trophies this season.

No English team has ever won a four – FA Cup, Carabao Cup, UEFA Champions League and English Premier League – this season, but Liverpool have convincingly moved a step closer.

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