Liverpool survive Villarreal’s astonishing comeback for a ‘tasteless’ first-half turnaround and reach the Champions League final in Paris


Liverpool booked their place in the Champions League final in Paris as they overcame a hellish first half to clinch a 3-2 win over Villarreal.

Goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane saved the Reds from European humiliation against a side that easily reversed their 2-0 first leg deficit.

Fabinho turned the game upside down after a stunning first-half collapse
Liverpool survive Villarreal's astonishing comeback for a 'tasteless' first-half turnaround and reach the Champions League final in Paris
Villarreal had completely bamboozled their opponents to erase a 2-0 first leg deficit
Getty

A third-minute opener from Boulaye Dia raised eyebrows and nerves, before former Arsenal player Francis Coquelin gave Liverpool their biggest shock in years.

Ex-Republic of Ireland international and talkSPORT commentator Andy Townsend described Liverpool’s display as “tasteless”, and the stats agreed.

Losing out on possession and shots, it looked like Unai Emery’s meticulous planning had once again outmaneuvered a European giant, but there was one contingency he hadn’t foreseen.

Defensive midfielder Fabinho made a rare and unexpected run into the opposition box and sent the ball into the legs of an under-par Geronimo Rulli to help the Reds regain a stunning lack of composure.

And five minutes later, with 23 minutes to go, the game was suddenly over, with second-half substitute Luis Diaz seeing Rulli once again let his header pass easily.

Jurgen Klopp’s men were finally back in their comfort zone when Mane rounded Rulli for his 24th Champions League goal, which also saw him level Frank Lampard on knockout goals in the competition.


Liverpool survive Villarreal's astonishing comeback for a 'tasteless' first-half turnaround and reach the Champions League final in Paris
Mane finally ended the tie after an even more terrible goalkeeper

Former Tottenham and Watford player Etienne Capoue was the best player on the pitch for Villarreal’s first 45, but the turnaround was summed up when he left La Ceramica with five to go after seeing red.

Liverpool ended the second half with ease despite their worst start to the season, and will now play their seventh European Cup in Paris against either Manchester City or Real Madrid.

The result also means Klopp is the first manager to reach a Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup final in the same season, with the dream of a historic quadruple still alive.

The recently re-signed German also joins Sir Alex Ferguson, Carlo Ancelotti and Marcello Lippi as the only managers to reach four Champions League finals, while his side simply can’t stop scoring.

139 goals in 57 games is a new club record for the Reds who were once again transformed by the impact of signing Diaz in January.

Liverpool survive Villarreal's astonishing comeback for a 'tasteless' first-half turnaround and reach the Champions League final in Paris
Porto’s £37million signing has turned the Reds into contenders on all fronts
AFP

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