Sucker-punch goal sees Liverpool go behind ahead of 2nd leg
It was so nearly a very handy result for Liverpool.
For 91 minutes they had kept Villarreal at bay, shutting out their main attacking threats by limiting them to few chances. They even looked like they could’ve grabbed the away goal and won the game for themselves.
It was an overall even affair. The first chance of the match fell to Joe Allen, who from 12 yards out could only fire at goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo. The Villarreal keeper was then at his very best in the second half when his slight tip on a shot from Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino pushed the effort onto the post.
Simon Mignolet’s superb late save from Cedric Bakambu kept the scores level until Lopez’s late winner, and the two sides meet in the return leg on Thursday at Anfield, as Liverpool look for a fourth title in the competition. Bakambu was kept relatively quiet by Liverpool for the whole game, while ex-Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado was brought off with 20 minutes to go.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made 3 changes from the side who started against Newcastle in the league at Anfield on Saturday, with the biggest shock the decision to bench Daniel Sturridge and start Roberto Firmino in a false 9 formation.
Phillipe Coutinho was removed from the action at half time due to feeling ill, and much to the frustration of the fans, Sturridge was never introduced into the game, and Christian Benteke, returning from an injury spell, was only brought on in the closing stages.
Liverpool had the chance to snatch it before Villarreal eventually did, with Alberto Moreno breaking clear from a Villarreal corner, running nearly the whole length of the field before eventually firing over the bar. It wasn’t long after this that Kolo Toure got caught under a high diagonal into the box for Denis Suarez, allowing the Spaniard to bear down on goal, and the midfielder’s unselfish pass enabled Lopez to slot into the empty net.
Liverpool have it all to do in their home leg at Anfield next week. Their fans will still be optimistic with the defensive qualities that Liverpool showed tonight, and with the game being the first at Anfield since the Hillsborough verdicts on Tuesday, the crowd will really be backing their team and helping them get through to the final.
It’s still all to play for in this well-poised semi final.
By Ben Kelly – @benkelly_10