At The Match: Anfield atmosphere prevented Liverpool nerves creeping in against Villarreal
WATCH: Join the fans and sample the atmosphere from the Reds’ 2-0 victory over Villarreal.
To their right, the world-renowned Spion Kop was amassed with supporters waving flags, scarves and banners. Truly a sight to behold as their team put themselves on the path to a third Champions League final under manager Jürgen Klopp.
Villarreal’s game plan was clear before the ball had even been kicked: disrupt the home side and the crowd as much as possible.
The visitors chose to turn Liverpool around and make them play towards the Kop in the first half - traditionally, the Reds will shoot that way after the interval.
It was a move met with boos as Alisson departed for the Anfield Road net earlier than usual. His opposite number, Geronimo Rulli, was then jeered for not responding to the old tradition of clapping the away team’s goalkeeper.
If that didn’t make Unai Emery’s intentions clear, their early antics on goal kicks definitely did.
The visitors would line up to play out from the back before Rulli waved his team forward and hit it long.
Another clever piece of time wasting by the Spaniards designed to dampen the atmosphere and the rhythm of the game.
It never quite accomplished that though, rather just riling up the home fans and making their opponents even more aggressive.
The Kop was in full voice throughout the night, something you’d expect for a semi-final of Europe’s premier competition of course, but it just eliminated any nerves or worries.
Anfield atmosphere prevented nerves creeping in
Emery will have hoped to grow the tension in the first leg but they never came close to doing so, even at half time with the game goalless. It’s partly due to Klopp’s style of play that it was never allowed to happen.
The temperature dropped significantly at Anfield, but Liverpool were red hot throughout the game. Pressing and prodding, creating and constricting. They never allowed the game to breathe until they chose to permit it.
Villarreal are a much better side than what they showed at Anfield but this juggernaut of a side - that could go down in the history books if they secure the quadruple - prevented them from leaving a mark on the first leg.
They were all over Emery’s side, who eventually chose to play out from the back to little effect on the game.
Hitting their stride at the business end of the season
Thiago won a lot of the plaudits and rightly so. Once again, he was majestic in possession and unforgiving out of it. His ability off the ball to execute Klopp’s gegenpressing is as impressive as his ridiculous skill when he has it back at his feet.
Fabinho seemed to be everywhere, winning back possession and getting his team back on the front foot high up the pitch, while Luis Diaz put in another scintillating showing on the left wing before being brought off.
The list goes on, with everyone on form except for Alisson who had next to nothing to do all night.
It’s become a theme over the last few games, certainly since the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, that this Liverpool side are firing on all cylinders.
Arguably, they cruised through some games before that in second gear while still picking up victories. With just seven games left (eight should they finish the job in the second leg in Spain) the hope is they’ve got enough in the tank to maintain this level and add to the trophy collection.