Liverpool vs Villarreal: Player ratings as Luis Diaz and Thiago inspire Reds to Champions League victory

Liverpool 2-0 Villarreal: Advantage the Reds after a dominant showing required patience to break down their Spanish visitors

Karl Matchett
Wednesday 27 April 2022 21:56
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Liverpool took a big step toward the Champions League final as they beat Villarreal 2-0 at Anfield in the semi-final first leg on Wednesday night.

The Reds dominated the first half without taking any of their chances, with the Yellow Submarine packing out the defence and offering next to nothing as an attacking entity. Thiago Alcantara went closest to breaking the deadlock as a 25-yard shot rattled the post, but Jurgen Klopp’s team didn’t have to wait much longer.

Soon after the restart, Jordan Henderson beat his man and sent over a cross with three waiting - but Pervis Estupinan stretched out a boot and diverted the ball over Geronimo Rulli and into the net. Mere moments later the lead was doubled, with Mohamed Salah finding a gap to play in Sadio Mane, who finished on the stretch.

Villarreal didn’t really attempt much of an attack until the final 15 minutes or so, by which time Virgil van Dijk and Luis Diaz had gone close to a third, but the Reds saw the game out with ease.

Here are the player ratings from the first leg at Anfield.

Liverpool

Alisson Becker, 6. Barely called upon in the first hour of the game. Made a save after 86 minutes and it was offside anyway.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, 8. Some really good approach play and two exceptional open-play crosses in the first half. Defensively sound and improved set-piece delivery from midweek and his passing range helped the Reds open up chances to finally score.

Ibrahima Konate, 8. Another superlative display from the centre-back, standing tall in the challenge in both halves of the pitch and dominant in the air for recycling play quickly. His pace was called upon a couple of times too and he didn’t miss a beat.

Virgil van Dijk, 7. Booked for a block as Villarreal looked to clear and counter. Hammered in a strike from range in his most notable contribution on the ball.

Andy Robertson, 7. The outlet on the overlap early on, then his usual industrious self going both directions for the Reds, helping keep the pressure on.

Fabinho, 8. Not his finest first half by a long way as he misplaced several routine passes, but was totally dominant after the restart. Villarreal couldn’t get away from him and he was unfortunate to see his shot hit the back of the net only to be ruled out for offside in the build-up.

Jordan Henderson, 7. Energetic and non-stop with his attempts to close down those in yellow, forcing errors. Was at times erratic with his passing but it was his cross which led to the opener, deflected into the far corner.

Thiago Alcantara, 9. Key to the Reds’ dominance and attempts to find space in open play - then crashed a long-range strike against the woodwork. Untouchable in possession, great in the counter-press.

Mohamed Salah, 8. Some good link play in the first half but given very little space to create or take shots inside the box until near the end of the first half - a right-footed effort was skied. Assisted Mane’s goal.

Sadio Mane, 7. Two early chances fell his way; lost his footing on one and headed the next off-target. The next spun just wide, deflected, but after the break he made no mistake when finally played in facing goal and slid his finish in for the Reds’ second.

Luis Diaz, 8. Liverpool’s catalyst for raising the tempo and getting shots away. Superb in close quarters, non-stop work rate and close to scoring more than once.

Subs: Diogo Jota 7, Naby Keita 6, Joe Gomez n/a, Divock Origi n/a.

Villarreal

Geronimo Rulli, 5. Spilled two Diaz shots but reacted fast to gather the first rebound. Did make a decent save or two along the way but might have done better with the opening goal having got fingertips to the deflected cross. Erratic has been his watchword for seasons, alternately showing great reflexes and questionable judgement, and tonight was no different.

Juan Foyth, 6. Had a non-stop battle with Diaz and Foyth won his share of the contests in the first half - but like several teammates, fell of the pace after the break due to the constant pressure.

Raul Albiol, 7. Some good moments of covering early on to clear out balls and runners behind the defensive line. Was beaten by a pass or two at times but aerially was excellent and kept the defence, and those ahead, well-marshalled.

Pau Torres, 6. Vital early clearance from a Mane chance, then another inside the six-yard box from a dangerous cross. Caught flat-footed for Mane’s goal and lacked a few times in playing out from the back. Kept very busy, so didn’t fare too badly considering his workload.

Pervis Estupinan, 5. Confident playing out and kept tight to Salah on the turn in the first half, but booked for hauling him down after the restart and then deflected in a cross for the opening goal. Went downhill after that and subbed off.

Samuel Chukwueze, 4. Nominally the team’s outlet with his pace and willingness to run the channels, but actually spent all game closing down the Liverpool No8s and was unable to be a threat on the break.

Dani Parejo, 5. Workman like and neat on the ball in tight spaces first half, but increasingly exposed by a lack of energy as the game went on.

Etienne Capoue, 4. Lots of running without achieving much other than closing down spaces at times. Didn’t get remotely close to Thiago and Fabinho.

Francis Coquelin, 4. A blocker at best, but very little real impact other than closing down space first half. Subbed after the two quickfire goals.

Giovani Lo Celso, 6. One of the hardest-working in yellow, he made blocks at one end and tried to burst in behind at the other. Booked

Arnaut Danjuna, 4. Completed three first-half passes, which shows how isolated he was and how the visitors had so little of the ball. Given and offered nothing more after the restart as the visitors failed to mount any regular pressure.

Subs: Alfonso Pedraza 5, Serge Aurier 5, Manu Trigueros 6, Boulaye Dia n/a, Paco Alcacer n/a

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