Villarreal: Liverpool survived a first-half scare to reach the Champions League final with a 3-2 win at Villarreal on Tuesday, for a 5-2 aggregate win, after the night threatened to turn bitter for Jurgen Klopp’s team.

The visitors went down 2-0 with a lackluster first-half performance before fighting back with three goals in a 12-minute period after the break to advance to their third European Cup final in five seasons.

The Premier League side had won 2-0 in England but looked in danger of falling apart on a rain-soaked pitch in Spain as the hosts hit them back with goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin.

Liverpool, however, came out transformed after half-time and goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane sealed the deal, with Villarreal ending the game with 10 men following a late red card for Etienne Capoue.

Klopp’s team will face either Real Madrid or Manchester City, who play the second leg of their semi-final on Wednesday, in the Paris showpiece on May 28. City win 4-3 in the first leg.

With the roar of their loyal fans filling their modest stadium, Villarreal opened the scoring after three minutes with Dia’s shot from close range that was greeted with a shout of “Si se puede!” of the local fans.

Villarreal had been lifeless in the first leg at Anfield but looked like a completely different team when they stormed Liverpool with the same aggressive play that eliminated Juventus in the round of 16 and beat Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals. end.

Their relentless pressure forced Liverpool to make mistakes they rarely make, with the visitors passing accuracy of 66%, the lowest they have achieved in the first half of a match in all competitions this season.

Villarreal leveled the tie with a Coquelin header from close range and seemed on the verge of a miraculous comeback.

The hosts even had a penalty appeal overturned by referee Danny Makkelie in the 38th minute when Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker came out to smother the ball, then hit Giovani Lo Celso inside the box.

Diaz Impact

However, Klopp brought Diaz off the bench at half-time and the fit Colombian winger changed the dynamic of the match, finding space and taking advantage of a Villarreal side that seemed to have run out of gas.

As pressure mounted from Liverpool, it seemed only a matter of time until they scored and the goal finally came after a brilliant combination between Fabinho and Mohamed Salah on the right flank.

The Brazilian midfielder recovered a loose ball near the Villarreal box, got past two defenders before making a wall with the Egyptian.

Salah boosted it with a pass between three defenders that left him alone to score with a low and angled shot that went between the legs of Villarreal goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli, who endured a difficult game.

Liverpool smelled blood and went for the jugular, led by Díaz, who slipped into the middle of the area to head in a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross that easily went past the goalkeeper in the 67th minute.

Seven minutes later Rulli tried to clear a long pass to Mane outside the area and completely missed the ball, leaving the Senegalese striker alone to finish at an empty goal.

Capoue, who had enjoyed a strong first half with two assists, was sent off with five minutes remaining, receiving a second yellow card for a late tackle on Curtis Jones.

“The early goal didn’t help us, it helped them tremendously, so we had to go deeper, we had to be very mature. And obviously in the second half, we played outstanding,” Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk said, adding that Klopp had given them clear instructions at half-time.

“(We needed to) play football, play Liverpool style, as we’ve been playing basically the whole season. Take the ball, have a lot of movement with the ball, but also behind the back line, they play a high line, so with the speed that we have, we have to mix that up as well,” he said.

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