Liverpool took a significant step towards a third Champions League final in five seasons when they beat Villareal in their semi-final first leg.
An own goal from Pervis Estupinan and a Sadio Mane strike earned the Reds a 2-0 triumph against the Spanish side. The result means Jurgen Klopp’s side still harbor hopes of a quadruple ahead of the return match next Tuesday.
But there was plenty that went unnoticed or under the radar during the 90 minutes at Anfield.
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While it would be wrong to say there was any bad blood between the teams during a hard-fought but fair encounter, there was one flashpoint after the final whistle involving Villarreal’s former Tottenham Hotspur defender Juan Foyth.
Luis Diaz, who had been substituted, took exception to something that was said as the teams walked off, prompting him to be pulled away by Rhys Williams while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Adrian both went to confront Foyth, who was then told by Jordan Henderson it would perhaps be better if he refrained from speaking any further. Well, that’s the family-friendly version, anyway.
Jurgen Klopp, meanwhile, simply sported a bemused smile at the agitated Argentine before everyone went their separate ways. One to keep an eye on next week, for sure.
Klopp left waiting
Regular observers of Liverpool’s pre-match routine will have long known there is one trademark move from Klopp. The Reds boss likes nothing better than to spend much of the period with his back to his own players while instead standing by the halfway line observing the preparations of the opposition.
Villarreal, though, pulled something of a fast one by failing to come out at the usual time, leaving Klopp to wait, wait and wait some more before deciding that was quite enough of that and saunter over to watch the Reds in front of the Kop before the Spaniards snuck out for a brief warm-up.
Given what happened during the match, Villarreal would have perhaps been better served by a longer preparation. Just saying, like.
Thiago on, my son
Thiago Alcantara has emerged as a key player for Liverpool in recent weeks, his level increasing the more important the opportunity to help the Reds dominate midfield.
And he even assumed the role of cheerleader against Villarreal, urging the crowd to increase the volume moments after striking the woodwork with an audacious first-half effort and then doing likewise shortly after Liverpool had taken the lead. The Kop responded in the desired manner.
Mind you, having posted pass accuracies of 92%, 96% and 98% in his previous three games, Thiago was back down to 96% this time. Must do better, clearly.
Villarreal fans show class
Villarreal fans were determined to make the most of their evening. And having been spotted throughout the city during the afternoon, they were bouncing inside Anfield long before kick-off, helped by an airing of a famous tune by The Beatles – Yellow Submarine for the Yellow Submariners, of course.
There was also a poignant touch when they unfurled a banner declaring ’97 – Villarreal Claims Justice’ in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster.
And the away supporters were still singing their hearts out a good 15 minutes after the final whistle was blown and the rest of the stadium had emptied. It all suggests a pretty lively atmosphere awaits Liverpool next Tuesday.