Liverpool 3-0 Villarreal: Daniel Sturridge fires Reds into Europa League final
An own goal from Bruno Soriano followed by strikes from Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana saw Jurgen Klopp’s men overturn a first-leg deficit and reach the final.
Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana scored crucial second-half goals as Liverpool moved into the Europa League final with a 3-1 aggregate victory over Villarreal.
Trailing from the first leg, Bruno’s early own goal gave Jurgen Klopp’s men an excellent start before Sturridge – who had been controversially left out in Spain – and Lallana netted the decisive strikes to seal a 3-0 win on the night at Anfield.
Villarreal produced very little as an attacking force throughout Thursday’s second leg and then had defender Victor Ruiz sent off for a second yellow card.
Liverpool, which has won the competition three times, now goes on to face record four-time champions and holder Sevilla in Basel on May 18 after Unai Emery’s men defeated Shakhtar Donetsk in the other last-four tie.
Villarreal, meanwhile, has suffered defeat in all four of the European semifinals it has participated in – one in the Champions League and three in the Europa League.
The visitors looked to get on the front foot early on, with Simon Mignolet getting down sharply to deny Mario and Jonathan dos Santos firing over shortly afterwards.
But Liverpool was ahead inside seven minutes. Nathaniel Clyne’s cross was only pushed out as far as Roberto Firmino by goalkeeper Alphonse Areola – who replaced Sergio Asenjo from the first leg – allowing the Brazil international to help the ball back across the face of goal.
Despite Sturridge being unable to make contact in a busy goalmouth, Bruno was in close proximity and inadvertently netted.
Liverpool threatened to make it two almost immediately when Lallana swept wide from James Milner’s delivery, while Cedric Bakambu shot tamely at Mignolet at the other end as the teams went into halftime with the tie level.
Areola dealt with efforts from Philippe Coutinho, Milner and Sturridge early in the second half, while Roberto Soldado
headed off target for Villarreal.
Another Sturridge effort was also kept out after he had been fed by Lallana, before the England striker netted with 63 minutes gone.
Firmino chested down and slipped through a pass from the edge of the box, with Sturridge taking one touch and firing in a shot that Areola could only divert onto the inside of the post.
Villarreal’s hopes of a comeback were dealt a massive blow when Ruiz was handed a second yellow card after arriving late as he attempted to steal possession from Lallana.
There was a moment of drama before Liverpool could be sure of its place in the final when Denis Suarez claimed for a penalty after going down following Alberto Moreno’s pressure from behind, but referee Viktor Kassai was unmoved.
And the tie was put beyond doubt with nine minutes remaining when Firmino made great progress down the left to beat Mateo Musacchio and cut back for Sturridge, whose scuffed shot was helped over the line by Lallana from close range.
Sturridge could have scored again in the closing stages, but was kept out by the legs of Areola after being played in by Clyne, though it did nothing to dampen the joyous Anfield mood.