Liverpool are through to the Europa League final, where victory can give them automatic qualification into the Champions League.
Jurgen Klopp selected an attacking line-up with Daniel Sturridge starting upfront, and James Milner playing alongside Emre Can in central midfielder, instead of defensive minded Lucas Leiva or Joe Allen. Milner normally plays further forward so it was a risk to start him, especially since Emre Can has only just returned from a three week injury.
The signs were there that the Reds were setup to score goals, and even risk conceding an away goal, meaning they needed to score about three this way. Villarreal’s Vaspar nearly made this the case with a counter attack that Simon Mignolet saved, though the shot wasn’t good enough anyway. The Spanish side fortunately found themselves in those positions due to loose balls falling their way in challenges.
After that early movement, Liverpool dominated the first half, and made the breakthrough early enough, after seven minutes with Daniel Sturridge turning in a low cross from Firmino, but it was adjudged to have deflected off a Villarreal defender and goes down as an own goal by Bruno.
Most of Liverpool’s possession was moved wide and they troubled the visitors with crosses, but Sturridge wasn’t in the same position on a number of occasions thereafter.
The home side should’ve doubled their lead when James Milner’s through ball found Adam Lallana, but the Englishman shot it just wide. Liverpool’s pressing game was on core, winning the midfield battle but Villarreal were not too hurried to push for an equalizer in the first half. They seem to be patient to even wait for extra time. The team’s went into the break locked at 1-1 on aggregate, since Villarreal won the first leg 1-0.
The visitors were doing well to slow the game down as the game moved past the hour mark. However their lack of venture forward would prove their undoing. The Reds gone into good positions thanks to the super close control by attacking midfielders Lallana and Firmino. Coutinho wasn’t as impressed on this night.
On the 63rd minute Firmino chested, and played a through ball to Sturridge who clinically shot it through the keeper, as the ball hit the post and rolled toward the other post before going over the line.
Soon after the visitors were under pressure and Ruiz got a second yellow card for an off the ball challenge on Lallana. Liverpool got into many positions to punish Villarreal further.
The likes of Sturridge had a few sights at goal, chose to go alone and shot just wide. The difference was made in the 81st minute when Firmino cut through, laid it on for Sturridge who’s missed opportunity fell to Lallana on the line. The latter poked it in for 3-0, game set and match.
Klopp brought on Allen and then Lucas to close up shop. Late on Sturridge could’ve added a fourth but went just wide again. In the end it wasn’t as dramatic as other Anfield European nights, because Klopp’s men finished the opposition quite impressively.