Champions League

Liverpool beat Villarreal to book Champions League final spot as hunt for quadruple continues

Liverpool have secured a 3-2 comeback win against Villarreal at Estadio de la Ceramica for an aggregate 5-2 win to book a place in the 2022 Champions League final and keep their hunt for a quadruple.

Boulaye Dia handed Unai Emery’s men an early lead in front of a boisterous home crowd, before Francis Coquelin stunned the below-par visitors by wiping out their aggregate lead on the stroke of half-time.

But Liverpool grew into the game after their dismal start, and after Geronimo Rulli failed to make a routine stop from Fabinho’s effort, half-time substitute Diaz headed home to send Jurgen Klopp’s men to the final.

Sadio Mane raced clear to round Rulli and roll home a late third to make the result safe before Etienne Capoue was sent off late on, keeping the Reds on course to cap an incredible season by winning four major trophies.

After failing to record a single shot on target at Anfield, the Yellow Submarine needed just three minutes to open the scoring, Dia tapping home after Capoue turned Pervis Estupinan’s delivery across goal.

Gerard Moreno saw a close-range header blocked as the visitors produced a dreadful first-half performance, and the Reds’ advantage, which looked to be decisive prior to kick-off, was wiped out when Coquelin sparked wild scenes by heading Capoue’s cross into the top-left corner.

Trent Alexander-Arnold struck the top of the crossbar with a deflected effort as Liverpool improved after the break, before Fabinho drilled a low shot through the legs of Rulli to restore the visitors’ aggregate lead after 62 minutes.

Diaz went close to bending home a superb second moments later, but was on hand to nod home Alexander-Arnold’s cross after 67 minutes and put the Reds back in full command of the tie.

The tie was settled once and for all when Mane took advantage of another Rulli error after 74 minutes, rounding the keeper well outside his area before rolling home to secure Liverpool’s progress, with Capoue then dismissed for a second yellow card after fouling Curtis Jones.

What does it mean? Liverpool overcome tough test to keep quadruple bid alive

Liverpool’s dreadful first-half display saw their aggregate lead vanish and left their hopes of competing for an incredible quadruple in the balance, but three goals in 12 minutes booked their spot in the final at the end of a remarkable contest.

Liverpool have now progressed to 10 European Cup/Champions League finals, becoming the fourth side to reach double figures for final appearances, after Real Madrid (16), Bayern Munich (11) and AC Milan (11).

Mane equals Lampard record

By rounding Rulli to put the tie beyond all doubt, Mane netted his 15th goal in the Champions League knockout stages for Liverpool.

As a result, he equalled Frank Lampard’s record for the most such goals netted for an English club, and will be desperate to edge ahead of the former Chelsea man when he features in the final.

Goal-hungry Reds sink Yellow Submarine

Klopp’s Liverpool may have evolved from the swashbuckling, heavy-metal side that lost the Champions League final to Real Madrid in 2018, but the Reds put on a clinical attacking display after the break to blow the Yellow Submarine out of the water.

Liverpool have now scored 139 goals in 57 games in all competitions this season, the highest such tally in their history.

What’s next?

Klopp’s team will turn their attentions back to the Premier League title race when they host Tottenham on Saturday, while Villarreal host Sevilla in LaLiga the following day.

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