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Liverpool down Villarreal in five goal thriller

Liverpool booked their third Champions League final in five seasons after a 3-2 win in Villarreal saw them progress 5-2 on aggregate.

Villarreal were not ready to throw in the towel.

In fact, they were hoping to become just the second side to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit in a semi-final, after Liverpool’s famous comeback from 3-0 down against Barcelona in 2019.

And it looked like they would succeed!

Boosted by the return of striker Gerard Moreno, Villarreal were aggressive and direct.

Liverpool were overwhelmed by the sheer intensity and energy of the Yellow Submarine.

The LaLiga side, conquerors of Juventus and Bayern Munich, did not manage a shot on target at Anfield last week but scored with their first here in only the third minute.

Pervis Estupinan’s cross was met at the far post by Capoue, whose mis-hit shot found Dia to score into an unguarded net.

They were lucky to escape conceding a penalty.

Keita’s misplaced back-pass went straight to Moreno who set up Giovani Lo Celso but he ran the ball too close to Alisson.

The goalkeeper was given the benefit of the doubt as the ball hit him just before the player went over him.

However Villarreal were not to be denied as the second goal came four minutes from the interval.

Capoue’s inviting cross to the far post was met by Coquelin, who out-jumped Alexander-Arnold to float a header into the top corner.

Luis Diaz the game-changer

The half-time introduction of £37.5million January signing Luis Diaz changed the game.

Swapping Diaz for Jota for the second half made an immediate improvement, allowing Mane to play centrally where he has done well recently.

Liverpool started to build pressure.

Alexander-Arnold had a long-range shot deflected onto the crossbar while Diaz acrobatically volleyed wide from Mane’s cross.

It finally told in the 62nd minute when Salah slid in Fabinho and his low, angled drive went through goalkeeper Rulli at his near post.

The two-goal cushion was restored five minutes later.

Diaz sent a thunderous downward header via a left-footed Alexander-Arnold cross which was Rulli couldn’t stop entering the net.

Rulli wasn’t done yet.

When he charged 20 yards outside his area to meet the onrushing Mane, the Senegal international side-stepped him, took the ball wider to avoid defender Foyth’s tackle before rolling the ball into an open goal.

Capoue sent off

Villarreal’s misery was completed when Etienne Capoue was sent off for a second yellow card for a foul on Curtis Jones late on.

As a result, Liverpool are into a third final of the season, having won the Carabao Cup and facing Chelsea in the FA Cup a week on Saturday.

This victory means they will have played every game available to them in their fixture calendar.

The relentless pursuit of a quadruple – and a seventh European Cup – rolls on.

The other spot in the Champions League final will be decided on Wednesday when Manchester City and Real Madrid play the second leg of the other semifinal.

Last week, City won 4-3 in the highest scoring Champions League semifinal match ever.

The final is scheduled for May 28 and will be played in Saint-Denis, France.

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