Liverpool are keeping their heads above water to stave off Villarreal’s deluge

They say that the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains, but the quiet little town villa real have seen plenty of it on one of the biggest days in the history of their humble club. A heavy, torrential downpour began in the early hours of Tuesday and lasted for most of the day, drenching El Madrigal.

It was damp. It was wet. The roof was leaking in places. Puddles of rainwater collected on the seats. The conditions forced even Villarreal’s most vocal, boisterous supporters into slightly ridiculous yellow ponchos. Together with the 0:2 deficit from the first leg, this caused a depressed atmosphere. But just before kick-off the sky cleared. And then the deluge.

The task for Villarreal at the beginning of the night was monumental. Liverpool had played 56 games that season, losing only three and never losing more than two goals. They hadn’t suffered a consecutive loss since December. They had also practically washed away their semi-final opponents at Anfield just a week ago.

The qualitative gap between these two sides seemed unbridgeable. It certainly couldn’t be closed, though Unai Emery showed the same ambition as in the first leg. But it was always Villarreal’s intention to do more than park the bus. Emery said it himself right after the final whistle at Anfield. His players were keen to prove they could play up front. Few, if any, believed they would.

But when the rain stopped, the clouds lifted and the game started, they did just that, flooding Liverpool’s half with wave after wave of attacks. A team that had scored just one shot on goal at Anfield doubled in three minutes. More importantly, they also scored with one of them.

Seldom does one see Liverpool’s defense so ailing as Boulaye Dia’s first set, a brilliantly worked goal scored by Etienne Capoue, who blocked a fine Pervis Estupinan cross. Villarreal suddenly looked not like the intimidated side struggling at Anfield but like the one who are 12 home games unbeaten and have recently denied victory to Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid.

And just as suddenly it didn’t seem like Villarreal needed to beat an opponent who had lost just three of 56 and none of them by more than two goals. Liverpool didn’t look like that team at all. Villarreal had better possession, tougher tackles and faster shots. Emery said his players had to produce a perfect game. When Francis Coquelin struck an unlikely but deserved equalizer just before half-time, it was hard to imagine how their evening could have gone any better.

Villarreal have given their fans a performance to be proud of

(Getty Images)

The game had started to resemble another major semi-final remontada, only this time Liverpool were cast as the Barcelona of 2019: unable to stem the opposition’s advance, unable to score the goal that would save them. The rain had stopped, but they drowned.

Jürgen Klopp and its players also found themselves in a strange and unfamiliar position that they hadn’t experienced in a while. Liverpool had hardly fallen behind in a game since the turn of the year before that – apart from just under an hour in their 2-2 draw with Manchester City – and although the performance was balanced overall, their unrecognizable first-half performance suggested that there was only one way the game went.

But it is the mark of great teams that they master new and difficult problems quickly. And this Liverpool is undoubtedly a great team. A The 0:2 deficit became a 3:2 lead, although the stakes were as high as they could go early in the second half. The level of control and composure displayed after the break was impressive, but even more so given the chaos that preceded it.

From the moment Fabinho’s shot from a tight angle crept through Geronimo Rulli’s legs, Liverpool reaffirmed their superiority over their spirited but limited opponents. As the waves of Villarreal attacks ebbed, Klopp’s side found their flow. The most difficult half of her season so far was followed by one of the easiest. That’s what the best do: They react, adapt and still win.

This extraordinary season ends with a Champions League Final, the tenth in the history of this competition for the club – only Real, Bayern and Milan have achieved more – and despite it being the first week of May, the quadruple remains a possibility, all because when they seemed to be sinking they lost their place kept heads above the rising water. Liverpool are keeping their heads above water to stave off Villarreal’s deluge

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