Sturridge sinks Yellow Submarine to send Liverpool to Europa League final
Holly Thackeray | May 5, 2016
Liverpool 3-0 Villarreal
Liverpool win 3-1 on aggregate
- Scoring opened in seventh minute after Sturridge shot deflected off Soriano
- Sturridge struck to make it 2-0 in 63rd minute, giving Liverpool lead on aggregate
- Villarreal were left to see out rest of match with 10 men after Ruiz saw red
- Lallana added a third for a 3-1 aggregate victory
Liverpool to face Sevilla in Europa League final
Despite beginning their Europa League semi-final second leg with a one-goal deficit to claw back, Liverpool made the most of their Anfield advantage and scored three times on the night to propel themselves to a Europa League final.
Eventually running out 3-1 winners on aggregate, thanks to Daniel Sturridge who had a hand in the first and the third, while also firing home for the second, the Reds now have a second shot at silverware under new coach Jurgen Klopp.
It’s been an emotional few weeks on Merseyside, and Liverpool (odds-on at 4/9 to next beat Watford in the Premier League) put on a performance to be proud of, booking their place at the showpiece finale at St Jakob-Park in Basel, with the chance of another continental coup and a Champions League spot on the horizon.
Though the Reds will have to find a way past current holders Sevilla, who have reached their third successive final after downing Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk 3-1 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, thanks to a brace from French forward Kevin Gameiro, and 5-3 on aggregate.
Early Liverpool lead capsizes Yellow Submarine
The Reds headed into this encounter 1-0 down from the first leg encounter at the Estadio El Madrigal, but it was a typically intense and electrifying return to Anfield, where the squad and the Kop save their best for these European nights.
Klopp had his men forcing errors, with Villarreal on the back foot from the off after some crafty combination play from Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino almost unlocked the guests, and certainly caused opposition keeper Alphonse Areola some confusion.
The shaky but highly-rated young stopper never quite recovered in a nervy first 45, and within seven minutes Liverpool had levelled.
Nathaniel Clyne’s sweeping low cross cut open the Yellow Submarine defences, as the full back’s delivery was cut out, but then clumsily palmed back into Reds possession, by Areola. Firmino seized on the loose ball and poked it back across to a lurking Sturridge, whose shot bounced in off skipper Bruno Soriano.
Reds ramp up pressure
It was odd to see a Spanish side being pinned back by their English counterparts for a change, and Liverpool continued to turn the screw.
Though visiting Villarreal also boasted threatening sights of goal, as much-maligned Simon Mignolet had been called upon earlier, and got down low to deny weaving right back Mario Gaspar, who was one of Marcelino Garcia Toral’s most promising outlets down the flank.
Lively Mexico international Giovani dos Santos, once of Tottenham fame, also kept Kolo Toure on his toes, as Alberto Moreno’s hunger to get forward kept leaving gaps at the back, though the Yellow Submarine were unable to make the most of spaces in enemy lines.
Luckily for the Spanish side neither could Liverpool, who kept possession and furiously pressed when they lost it. Perhaps the best chance for Klopp’s men to capture a second fell to Lallana, after defender Dejan Lovren aggressively broke up play, allowing James Milner to pop up and send a raking ball to his compatriot’s feet. The former Southampton star missed the chance to connect, but Villarreal had been crucially exposed.
Yellow Submarine warning shots
Tempers flared as the first 45 faded out, as pint-sized schemer Denis Suarez hacked at Milner, while Roberto Soldado made an ill-advised ankle grab at Lovren, who made a meal of the contact. Still, it was not all the Reds’ way, as sharpshooter Cedric Bakambu took a swipe at goal for the guests to warn Klopp and co just before the break.
The Yellow Submarine sent another warning shot across Liverpool’s bow just after the interval, with Bakambu again in the frame, stopped from rifling into the net only by a last-ditch Lovren challenge.
Yet, undermining that poaching promise was PSG-owned Areola’s continued sloppy play in net as he appeared to panic after a clever Coutinho move, again punching thee ball wildly back into the box.
Sturridge strikes second blow
Though as the guest side grew in confidence, the Reds attempted to rip their foes apart on the counter attack, with speedy Sturridge’s strong shot cannoning out after Firmino had let him loose down the field.
Samba star Firmino, who showcased his silky skills all evening, then slipped in Sturridge again and the ball bobbled to the striker’s feet. The England international had Thomas Muller-like timing, sneaking behind the defence and keeping onside to finish cheekily through under-pressure Areola’s legs with a little slice of help from the goal post.
To compound Villarreal’s woe, they were then left with 10 men and a mountain to climb as Victor Ruiz saw the red mist descend, having been booked for descent and what appeared a stamp on Coutinho.
Lallana sends Reds into showpiece final against Sevilla
A third goal for the dominant and dangerous hosts finally arrived around the 81st minute mark, with Lallana the unlikely Liverpool hero.
The playmaker somehow scraped the ball into the net with the outside of his boot after Sturridge’s scuffed a close-range effort, though the move was all about magical Firmino, who danced through the Yellow Submarine’s defence to set up the chance.
Villarreal, one man missing and with a keeper suffering a calamity, had given it their best shot but never looked the same side away from home, leaving Liverpool to contemplate their chance at a trophy in Switzerland…