Despite the great resistance, Sadio Mane secures the first ticket to the Champions League final

Liverpool advanced to their third Champions League final in five years with a 5-2 aggregate victory against Villarreal.

It was easy in the end, but Liverpool had serious issues after 45 minutes of the second leg. Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin put the hosts up to two goals at halftime and even on aggregate, with Villarreal anticipating an extraordinary recovery.

The Reds rallied in the second half, with Fabinho, Luis Diaz, and Sadio Mane putting the visitors ahead on the night in a 12-minute span and entirely in control of the game, relegating their early issues to the far past. Etienne Capoue was sent off late in the first half, capping a terrible half for Villarreal, who lost 3-2 to the Reds in Spain.

Jurgen Klopp’s side will compete in Europe’s showpiece once again at the end of the month when they play either Manchester City or Real Madrid in Paris. The quadruple is still alive and well.

Villarreal failed to record a single shot on goal in the first leg at Anfield; it took them three minutes in Spain to do so, and it came in the shape of a goal. Pervis Estupinan delivered a cross to the far post, Capoue headed it back across the box, and Dia finished with the simplest of finishes.

It was a fantastic start for the hosts, who seemed to be overjoyed. Meanwhile, Liverpool was shaken in a manner that Klopp has seldom if ever, witnessed. Dani Parejo pulled a shot from outside the box inches wide.

The visitors gained some hope when Diogo Jota went through on goal, but Raul Albiol was quick to shut him down. The ball was then prodded away from goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli by Mohamed Salah, only for the referee to whistle for a foul.

When Giovani Lo Celso fell down in the box while attempting to run around Alisson, the umpires rightly determined that Alisson possessed the ball when the duo connected.

Francis Coquelin had spent much of the first half clutching his face in an overly theatrical way in an attempt to get cheap free kicks, but he used his head in a more constructive manner to equalize the game right before the interval. Capoue sent a cross to the back post, where Coquelin charged in and leaped above Trent Alexander-Arnold to head into the top corner. Few north London supporters expected Capoue and Coquelin to combine for a Champions League semi-final goal.

Diaz was added at halftime, and Liverpool were much better at the start of the second half. Diaz couldn’t keep an acrobatic volley down after Mane found him, and Alexander-30-yard Arnold’s attempt bounced off Coquelin and looped onto the bar.

Luis Diaz named Man of the Match

Liverpool put their first-half difficulties behind them and reclaimed the aggregate lead just after the hour mark. Salah sent the ball through to Fabinho, who seemed to be setting up a shot across the face of the goal. The Brazilian, on the other hand, chose to blast it towards goal, and although the attempt was aimed squarely at Rulli, it made its way past the goalie.

The two-goal lead in the tie was regained five minutes later. Alexander-Arnold had enough time to curl a beautiful left-footed cross into the area, where Diaz was onside and ready to head it past Rulli for the goal his impact off the bench merited.

Villarreal seemed to be a defeated team, which was reinforced when Mane put Liverpool up on the night. Naby Keita found his partner, and Mane knocked the ball past the onrushing Rulli, who had a night to forget. The Liverpool player maintained his composure, took his time, and eventually rolled the ball into an empty goal.

The frustrations of the home team heightened in the last minutes as Liverpool ran them tired, with Curtis Jones almost increasing the advantage with his first touch off the bench.

Capoue was handed his marching orders after a foul on Jones resulted in a second yellow card for the midfielder, emphasizing the astonishing turnaround in only 40 minutes.

Liverpool may savor the last seconds, knowing they’ll be back on the grandest platform in club sport. One final has been won, two more are on the way, and a Premier League title race going down to the wire – an incredible season could become something even more special.

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