Not letting the late loss in the first leg weigh them down, Liverpool were too much for Villarreal in the second leg of their Europa League semi final, beating the Spanish side 3-0 at Anfield to go through to the final after winning 3-1 on aggregate. In the final they’ll face another Spanish side and the competition winners these last two years, Sevilla.
Liverpool started with their notorious high press which frustrated Villarreal players, especially Denis Suarez and Roberto Soldado, both players booked during the match. Villarreal lost Victor Ruiz in the 71st minute (when they were already down by two goals) to a second yellow card, and except for a few rare moments in the second half, looked disinterested in dominating possession and failed to create any meaningful chances.
Liverpool scored in the 7th minute to set the tone and not put any pressure on themselves thanks to a poor goalline clearance by Bruno, resulting in an own goal. From that moment it was all Liverpool, but most of their actions near the goal were inaccurate, as Roberto Firmino, Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge failed to find a good, clean shot at Alphonse Areola.
But in the second half the constant pressure led to mistakes by the Villarreal defense, one of them being a poor offside trap. Sturridge, having a rough time this season and possibly leaving the club this summer, made the most of the opportunity simply landing at his feet, beating Areola with a quick strike on the one on one, giving Liverpool the second goal they worked so hard for.
The goal in the 63rd minute put some life into Villarreal but the red card to Ruiz ended their attempts to score a goal. Sturridge played too selfishly to add a second goal, but a pathetic miss from him in the 81st minute allowed Adam Lallana to position himself perfectly for the rebound and score the third goal.
While their dream of finishing in the top 4 is long gone, Liverpool can still make it into the Champions League next season, if they win the Europa League final. Like their recent match against Swansea, it’s unlikely they’ll show 100% commitment and seriousness in what remains of their league schedule.
The 2016 Europa League Final will be held in Basel at the St. Jakob-Park. The match between Liverpool and Sevilla will take place on Wednesday, May 18. Liverpool have won the competition three times (all three when it was still the UEFA Cup), last time in 2001 against Alaves. Sevilla are four time winners in the competition, all in the last 10 years, including the last two: 2006, 2007, 2014, 2015.