Well, that was pretty fun.
Liverpool are in yet another Champions League final, seeing off Villarreal with an enthralling 3-2 victory that, for a short while, looked like it was going to go in a completely different direction.
We almost didn’t even get a game as thunderous rain pelted the Villarreal pitch, but fortunately, the referees let things go ahead.
There was immediate intrigue as Villarreal confirmed that star striker Gerard Moreno had overcome injury and would start this one.
Moreno was one of Europe’s deadliest marksmen last season and his presence alone had some fans feeling like a comeback could be on the cards.
It wasn’t Moreno, but Boulaye Dia who opened the scoring just three minutes in. Etienne Capoue’s cut-back was put on a plate for the striker, who sped past Virgil van Dijk and tapped home into an empty net.
Not a bad time to grab your first Champions League goal.
It wasn’t a fluke, either.
Villarreal were on top in the opening stages, showing more attacking impetus than we saw from them across the entire first leg, and Liverpool fans were getting a little nervous.
Liverpool were sloppy throughout the first half and that lack of control had hearts in mouths shortly before the first half as Naby Keita gave the ball away and sent Villarreal through on goal.
Giovani Lo Celso rounded Alisson and went to ground after being felled by the goalkeeper, but there was no doubt in the referee’s mind that it was a good challenge from Alisson. Not penalty.
Villarreal didn’t allow themselves to get down, however.
And a few minutes before the break, the second goal arrived.
Francis Coquelin got away from Trent Alexander-Arnold to head home, give Villarreal a 2-0 lead and tie things up on aggregate with 45 minutes to go.
The stats at half-time made for pretty ugly reading for Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s way of getting back into the game was to bring on Luis Diaz at the interval, with Diogo Jota making way.
Did it work? kinda. Liverpool were far better in the second half, with Alexander-Arnold’s deflected strike hitting the crossbar and Diaz spurning an acrobatic effort soon after.
After the hour mark, Liverpool finally got their goal.
It was Fabinho who came in a clutch, although he needed some good fortune. His strike from him from an angle was pretty tame, but somehow, it ended up going through Geronimo Rulli’s legs and trickling into the back of the net.
Next up it was Diaz himself who was celebrating.
His substitution had changed the game and it was only fair that he got himself on the scoresheet. Diaz was in an acre of space as Alexander-Arnold’s cross landed right on his forehead, and his header again went through Rulli’s legs and into the back of the net.
The result of the tie was pretty obvious now but Liverpool made sure they secured the victory on the night with 15 minutes to go.
Yet again, Rulli was at fault as he came charging out of goal despite never having any chance of getting the ball, but credit to Sadio Mane, who rounded the goalkeeper and tapped home into an empty net.
That was game, set and match for this tie. Villarreal knew they were cooked and Liverpool strolled around for the remaining 20 minutes safe in the knowledge that the hard part – which they made unnecessarily harder – was over.
The quad is still alive. just.