For 45 minutes on Tuesday, Liverpool’s hopes of reaching the Champions League final seemed in serious jeopardy.
Having been beaten during the first half of the semi-final return to Villarreal, the Reds certainly produced their worst part of the season in a match that threatened to derail their quadruple hopes.
But – as often happens – Jurgen Klopp’s team found a way.
Liverpool seemed to be in control of the equalizer after a comfortable 2-0 win at Anfield last week, but the Spanish side nullified that lead at half-time.
It was still 2-2 overall at the time, but Fabinho, interval substitute Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane scored for send Liverpool to Paris – where Real Madrid or Manchester City will play.
The turnaround in Villarreal means:
- Liverpool are the first English club to reach the European Cup / Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup final in the same season.
- The Reds will play in all matches available to them this season, winning the Carabao Cup and reaching the FA Cup final (where they will play against Chelsea) and the Champions League final.
- They can still become the first English team to win a quadruple of the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup.
‘Our minds weren’t right’ – Klopp’s decisive intervention in the interval
Klopp revealed after the game that he asked Peter Krawietz at half-time to show a clip of something his players did well during the first half so that he could replicate it in the second period, but the assistant manager failed to do so. find one.
They were down 2-0 to goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin and hadn’t even shot on goal.
“The problem at half-time was that we knew what was wrong because it was obvious, but we didn’t have a situation to show where we had done it well,” said Klopp.
“I told Krawietz ‘find one where we do well and we can show it.’ He walked in and said ‘no, I don’t have it.’
“So it was a great first half, but it was about the reaction of the guys. We were calm and we’re still here.
“We didn’t play football at all. I told the guys ‘they have momentum but they don’t have it, we can get it back.’ scored goals and we made it.
“What I said was about football, where we had to play, where we had to move, where we had to be brave, change momentum, go back and in between. It was a football problem and you solve it with football.
“After three minutes [of the first half] our minds weren’t right. We were in a hurry and felt the pressure. You have to force your own kick and in the second half we did it. “
The Reds had only had three touches in the Villarreal area and completed 36.2% of their passes in the last third of the first half, just a week after such a dominant performance at Anfield that Villarreal’s approach was described as “pathetic” by a radio expert.
During Klopp’s half-time team speech, Reds defender Virgil van Dijk told BT Sport: “He told us to play football, Liverpool-style, as we have been doing all season.
“They play a high line so with the speed we had we had to confuse. Also we had to show how much we wanted to get to the final. In the second half we dominated.”
Right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold added: “We regrouped at half-time and took the game by the scruff of the neck. We did what we had to do.
“We never played football in that first half and we didn’t collect balls. They played the game they wanted and we let them do it. In the second half we controlled the game better.”
Is the “mesmeric” Diaz the signature of the season?
The introduction of Diaz in the interval was a major turning point. The Colombian striker, who replaced Diogo Jota, scored the Reds equalizer on the night, the goal that practically ended the draw.
In 45 minutes he shot more shots – four – than anyone else in the whole game. His 90% passing accuracy was better than any Reds player, aside from late replacement James Milner.
“Diaz has made a huge difference,” said BBC Radio 5 Live co-commentator Chris Sutton.
“It was a revelation. We’re talking about players who need time to sleep, but he settled down immediately.”
January’s £ 37.5m signing has scored five goals since his transfer from Porto.
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand said on BT Sport: “Diaz made a difference. He was fascinating. He is a fabulous player and one of – if not – the signing of the season for me.”
Former Reds forward Michael Owen added: “I’ve never seen a guy come in and hit the ground running like him. To get back to the way Liverpool play the way he did is incredible. And now there’s no doubt about it. regard, is a proprietor “.
Can Liverpool win all four? Salah thinks so
Liverpool are now only six games from an unprecedented English quadruple, even though they are one point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City four games to go and need their rivals wrong.
Only Celtic, in 1966-67, have ever won a European Cup, a league title, a cup and a league cup in one season, even though most countries do not have two domestic cups.
Since Mohamed Salah joined Liverpool in 2017, he has won three trophies: the 2018-19 Champions League, the 2019-20 Premier League and this season’s Carabao Cup.
They had only won three trophies in the 13 years prior to his arrival.
The Egyptian, the Reds’ top scorer this season with 30 goals, said: “We fight for everything. We win a trophy, now we are in another final, we continue to fight in the Premier League.
“Quadruple now the goal. Maybe not at the beginning of the season. I’m always honest and I focus on the Champions League and Premier League. But now, why not? After beating City in the FA Cup semi-finals [I thought it was on].
“After the group stage I thought ‘Okay, this year we will win the Champions League’.
“I want to play in Madrid [in the final]. City are a really tough team. “
Klopp added: “It’s really hard to reach three finals, that’s probably why no one has ever done it before. When the finals show up on the schedule we’ll make sure we’re ready, but in these finals we’re playing against incredibly strong teams. we will try, but it is difficult “.