UEFA Europa League
Anfield, Liverpool, England
7′ Soriano (OG)
70′ Ruiz Sent off (Second bookable offence)
Liverpool booked a place in the UEFA Europa League Final after overturning a one-goal first-leg deficit to beat ten-men Villarreal 3-0 on the night at Anfield and 3-1 overall.
Second-half goals from Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge ensured the Reds progressed into the Final after Bruno Soriano drew the Reds level in the tie after he put into his own net early in the first-half. The Spanish side also lost Víctor Ruiz twenty minutes from time for a second yellow card.
The visitors led from the first-leg and knew that if they scored an away goal, the hosts would need to score two and the Spanish side went close to finding it. In the fourth minute, former Tottenham Hotspur and Valencia striker Roberto Soldado chested the ball into Mario Gaspar whose deflected effort forced Simon Mignolet into a fine instinctive save.
A minute later the visitors went close again. After Cédric Bakambu went down in the area, the loose ball fell to Jonathan dos Santos who fired the ball just over the bar.
Two minutes later the hosts went ahead on the night. After a cross-come-shot from Nathaniel Clyne was palmed into the path of Roberto Firmino by Alphonse Aréola, the Brazilian played the ball back across goal towards Sturridge whose presence at the back-post put the unfortunate Soriano under-pressure and he inadvertently put into his own net to level the aggregate score.
Five minutes later the Reds should have doubled their lead when James Milner wonderfully spotted Lallana’s run but the former Southampton man miscued his effort and the ball drifted just wide.
The visitors knew that they were still very much in the game and had the chance to find their away goal on the stroke of half-time. Soldado found Cédric Bakambu on the edge of the penalty area, but his first-time effort was straightforward for Mignolet.
Two minutes into the restart the hosts went close to doubling their lead on the night. A Liverpool corner was worked to Philippe Coutinho who cut inside before unleashing a strike that forced Aréola into a good save at his near-post.
In the 55th minute the visitors went close. A Villarreal freekick from dos Santos found Soldado but he could only header wide.
Six minutes later the hosts went close when Lallana found Sturridge in space. The striker was forced wide but he managed to get a shot away that called Aréola into action – palming the ball away at his near-post.
Two minutes later the Reds found their second of the night. A deflected Firmino strike fell invitingly to Sturridge who did well to stay onside before firing an effort that clipped both posts via Aréola.
A minute later the hosts went close to getting another in quick succession. The hosts broke from a Villarreal corner and after Firmino wonderfully beat Soldado, he found Alberto Moreno who curled an effort just wide.
The visitors knew that the game was slipping away from them and the task of getting an away goal got even more difficult when they were reduced to ten men in the 70th minute. Ruiz, who was earlier booked for dissent, received a second yellow card for a late challenge on Lallana and he received his marching orders.
Three minutes later the hosts went close to wrapping up the game when Milner found Firmino whose ferocious srike forced Aréola into a good save at his near-post.
In the 81st minute the Reds took advantage of the extra man and sealed the victory. Firmino got to the byline before cutting the ball back to Sturridge whose mishit shot fell kindly to Lallana who made no mistake.
Five minutes later, the hosts should have made it four. Mateo Musacchio played Sturridge onside but with just the keeper to beat the striker’s effort was saved by the feet of Aréola before substitute Joe Allen fired wide on the follow-up.
In the second minute of injury-time the Reds went close to adding to their tally when Allen found Lallana but the Englishman’s effort was well-saved by Aréola.
That was the last action of the match as the Reds progressed into their first European Final since 2007 whilst Villarreal bowed out in what was their fourth defeat in a European semi-final.
The result meant that the Reds will now play defending Champions Sevilla, who could make it their third consecutive Europa League title and their fifth title overall after beating Shakhtar Donetsk in the other semi-final.