Reds in Europa final as Villarreal crumble

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Daniel Sturridge scores the second for goal for Liverpool against Villarreal. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

Daniel Sturridge scores the second for goal for Liverpool against Villarreal. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

The scene was set for another glorious European night at Anfield and Liverpool delivered as they kept their season alive by defeating ten-man Villarreal 3-0 to reach the Europa League final.

An own goal and second half strikes by Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana were enough to see off the Spanish visitors – who had Victor Ruiz sent off – and send the Reds into their first European final for almost a decade.

The away side were in a rich vein of form coming into the game with a 1-0 first leg lead and having set a new club record of 12 European games undefeated, but Villarreal were outclassed on the night.

After seven minutes, they helped Liverpool into the lead as Emre Can found Nathaniel Clyne in space on the right. His cross was parried by Villarreal goalkeeper Alphonse Areola and the loose ball fell to Roberto Firmino unmarked, who fired it back into the six-yard box and captain Bruno Soriano turned it into his own net in front of the Kop.

Liverpool fans build the atmopshere before the Reds face Villarreal in the Europa League at Anfield. Pic by Matt Crosby © JMU Journalism

Liverpool fans build the atmopshere before the Reds face Villarreal in the Europa League at Anfield. Pic by Matt Crosby © JMU Journalism

The goal gave the home side much encouragement and the Reds almost doubled their lead after 20 minutes when James Milner’s precise through ball was met by Lallana, however the England international could only see his scuffed effort fall just wide of Areola’s right post.

The Yellow Submarine, who have only failed to score in one of their last 32 Europa League matches, struggled to keep hold of possession as Liverpool pressured well, forcing Marcelino Garcia Toral’s men to play most of the second leg on the back foot.

It was double delight for the home side just after the hour mark when Firmino’s smooth pass from 12 yards out evaded the gaping Villarreal defence, and an unmarked Sturridge slipped a second through the legs of Aerola and over the line, albeit off the keeper’s left hand post.

The night got worse for the travelling fans when Ruiz was shown a second yellow for a challenge from behind on Phillipe Coutinho.

Villarreal had a penalty shout when substitute Adrian Lopez was bundled over in the box, but Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai waved away half-hearted appeals.

Adam Lallana scores the third goal for Liverpool against Villarreal. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

Adam Lallana scores the third goal for Liverpool against Villarreal. Pic © David Rawcliffe / Propaganda Photo

Lallana rubbed salt into Villarreal’s wounds with 10 minutes to go.

The impressive Firmino showed strength on the left to beat his man and deliver a cross into a crowded penalty area, where Sturridge’s mistimed shot fell to Lallana and his neat finish on the turn from five yards out left Areola stranded.

Jurgen Klopp’s side will now aim to lift the old UEFA Cup trophy for the fourth time when they meet another Spanish team and Europa League holders, Sevilla, in the final in Basel on May 18th.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJkCAGflMQk

About Nathan Burgess, JMU Journalism