The controversial starting point was that Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool boss once again dropped Daniel Sturridge in the Europa League.
The England forward would’ve thought he had a good chance to start this time, since Divock Origi is out injured and this will frustrate Sturridge further.
Klopp approached the game safety first, rather negatively and that is ultimately what cost the Reds on the night. The German seemed to be looking to take home a 0-0 result, which is a senseless tactic when you consider the errors his backline consistently makes.
Yet, his plan nearly worked, if it wasn’t for a last minute error in injury time by Alberto Moreno that allowed the counter attack. The game could’ve also swung in different directions if Adam Lallana wasn’t wrongly flagged off side and if Moreno had scored when he was clean through.
Earlier in the game Lallana’s cross into the middle was deflected into the path of Joe Allen’s run from deep into the area. The Welshman elected to sweep goalwards first time, but it was straight at Sergio Asenjo and the ‘keeper was able to save.
The pace of the contest remained high and soon after, former Spurs striker Roberto Soldado threatened when he latched onto a quickly-taken free-kick and bounced a half-volley across the face of goal and wide of the far post.
Liverpool made a change at the break with Jordon Ibe replacing Coutinho – and they nearly found themselves behind within a minute as Cedric Bakambu glanced a header against the outside of the post from a corner. It was revealed that Coutinho fell ill.
It was an even game that had stalemate written all over it, but Villarreal pushed forward late on.
In the dying minutes Alberto Moreno demonstrated exceptional speed to race more than half the length of the pitch, but he could only blast wide of the top corner.
And it was a night that was to ultimately end in frustration for Liverpool as Lopez applied the finishing touch to a counter-attack to give Villarreal the advantage at the halfway stage of the tie.