Pundits laud ‘mesmeric’ Luis Diaz after Champions League semi-final win over Villarreal

The Colombian came on at half-time to turn the game back in Liverpool’s favour.

The praise for Luis Diaz just keeps coming and coming after the Colombian winger transformed Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final second-leg at Villarreal on Tuesday.

The Reds went to Spain 2-0 up on aggregate but quickly found that lead chalked off, with goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin giving the Yellow Submarine a 2-0 lead on the night.

But the introduction of Diaz - who came on for Diogo Jota - transformed a tie in which Jurgen Klopp’s men looked like a tired team fighting for all four major trophies and playing every few days.

The 25-year-old came flying out the blocks with his typically direct running and tireless pressing, scoring the second goal with a deft header and carrying Liverpool through to the final.

What’s been said

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Post-match praise was rightly heaped on the Colombian, with Rio Ferdinand saying he held the key to the tie.

“Diaz was the difference maker,” Ferdinand told BT Sport. “Yes, Villarreal stepped off the gas but Diaz coming 1v1 was the big difference. This guy came on and was mesmeric.”

“They’ve got great strikers but he is something different. He wants to get you 1v1 and run at you at all times, that’s his first thought. The dribbling, the way he unnerves defenders, his trickery, his balance. I think he’s a fabulous player, what a player.”

While former Reds Michael Owen and Peter Crouch claimed he had to be the man to start in Paris.

“He was fantastic. The moment he came on he was getting at players. He was a complete game-changer,” Crouch said.

“In the final, he starts. He’s come in and invigorated the whole dressing room. I spoke to Jurgen Klopp about him and he says he enjoys his football every day.”

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Owen added: “I have never seen a player hit the ground running like him. Playing in different leagues, not speaking the language.

“To pick up the way Liverpool play so quickly is unbelievable. He’s starting the final for sure.”

Diaz shoe-in for Paris final

It was a shock to see the Colombian benched for the semi-final, although he had started both the first-leg last week and the weekend win at Newcastle United.

But Liverpool lacked an unpredictability in the first-half, failing to unbalance a resolute Villarreal defence.

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The introduction of Diaz panicked the Spanish side, with the winger’s relentless dribbling pinning them back and giving the away side the impetus.

It’s hard to see the former Porto man being benched again for the final in Paris on May 28, with his directness such a game-changing quality.

It’s been an incredible few months for the January signing, and he is quickly becoming one of the most important players in a team searching for a historic quadruple.