Jurgen Klopp will be pleased with his team’s performance, but they must improve their clinical edge in front of goal. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Luis Diaz have all been involved in the final third, but they haven’t been firing on all cylinders. In the second half, it may only take one moment for the floodgates to open.
The first leg of the Champions League semi-final between Liverpool and Villarreal is goalless at the break. The Reds have dominated possession but have yet to break through. Thiago came the closest to scoring for the hosts, but his 20-yard strike smacked off the post. Sadio Mane’s effort was also deflected inches wide of the left post. Villarreal’s tenacity is on display yet again.
45′ + 1′ HALF-TIME: LIVERPOOL 0-0 VILLARREAL
45′ There will be one minute of added time.
45′ OFFSIDE! Fabinho releases Salah in the inside-right channel before the forward sees his effort smothered by Rulli. It did not matter anyway as the Egyptian was offside in the build-up.
43′ There have been 13 shots so far in this match between Liverpool (12) and Villareal (1), which ties the highest number for the first half of a Champions League semi-final without a goal scored.
42′ OFF THE POST! Thiago sees a great effort from a distance clatter off the left post. The Spaniard takes a step forward from the midfield and is afforded space and time to fire at the goal. He connects well with his strike, only to be denied by the woodwork.
39′ Rulli makes a gamble at the back as he comes well off his line to punch clear a cross from Konate. The Villarreal keeper has a strategy and he’s sticking to it tonight.
36′ Parejo tries to release Lo Celso in behind the Liverpool defense, but he can only send his effort on the stretch behind for a goal-kick.
35′ CHANCE! Salah blazes over from close range. Alexander-Arnold sends a brilliant first-time cross in from the right flank that Salah meets on the volley on his right foot, but he sends his effort over the top.
34′ BLOCK! Villarreal is putting their bodies on the line at the back. Lo Celso becomes the latest player to divert a goalbound effort from Salah over the bar.
33′ INCHES WIDE! Mane latches on to a lay-off from Thiago and turns to fire at goal on the half-volley. However, Albiol sticks out a leg and does just enough to deflect it wide of the left post.
V. van Dijk
32′ Van Dijk takes out Chukwueze before he can break on a counter and goes into the book.
31′ SAVE! Diaz cuts in with menace from the left flank and powers a strike towards the goal. Rulli parries the drive but pushes it out into the box. The visitors can scramble it away from
31′ Torres is back on his feet and has to be alert to clear a cross from Salah away from Mane in the box.
30′ Torres takes a low direct to the face from Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick and requires treatment before the game can resume.
29′ BLOCK! Alexander-Arnold lines up the resulting free-kick, but he hammers his effort straight into the wall.
28′ Coquelin drags back Alexander-Arnold on the edge of the Villarreal box, and hands Liverpool a free-kick in a dangerous position.
27′ OVER! Salah and Mane combine with a one-two that allows the former to fire at the goal. He has to blast his effort through a crowd, and just gets too much elevation on his effort as it sails over the bar.
24′ Alexander-Arnold finds space down the right flank and the angles a cross towards the near post, but Coquelin is back to divert it behind.
22′ OFF THE POST! Henderson steers a first-time cross towards the near post following a fine ball from Thiago. The Reds skipper sees his delivery clatter off the outside of the right post and behind after Rulli opts to leave it. It was closer than he thought.
20′ Liverpool have not been able to impose themselves on the game. Villarreal is deploying their defensive tactics to great effect once more.
18′ Capoue spots Danjuma in space and finds the forward. He looks up for support and tries to thread through Chukwueze, but Robertson gets back to make an important interception.
16′ CHANCE! Thiago latches on to a cleared corner from the left flank and launches an effort on the volley into the ground. It bounces awkwardly, but Rulli goes for the punch rather than a claim and almost allows the Reds to capitalize, but Van Dijk is caught offside.
14′ SAVE! Diaz cuts in from the left flank and finds space to fire at goal on his right foot, but his curling effort is parried by Rulli before he gathers at the second attempt ahead of Mane.
13′ CHANCE! Salah raids down the right flank and clips a perfect cross into the box for the run of Mane. The forward has to stretch behind him to attack the delivery, and can only guide his header wide of the right post.
11′ Villarreal have their first press down the left flank and win a corner as Chukwueze’s cross is diverted behind by Fabinho.
9′ OVER! Salah rises to attack Alexander-Arnold’s first cross into the box, but he can only glance his header over the bar.
8′ Konate rises highest in the box to attack Robertson’s corner and he nods the ball down. It’s almost for Mane, but his first touch is a tad heavy and Torres reacts to clear behind.
7′ Mane tries to turn past Lo Celso, but the defender holds firm to divert the ball behind for a corner.
6′ Fabinho tries to release Robertson in behind the Villarreal defense down the left flank, but the Scot can only nod the ball out of play.
4′ Thiago arcs a sublime long ball over the top for Salah in the inside-right channel, but the forward takes a loose first touch and it travels behind for a goal-kick.
1′ We’re underway at Anfield.
Liverpool and Villarreal have only met twice in European competition, with both winning their home legs of the 2015-16 Europa League semi-finals when Liverpool went on to face Unai Emery’s Sevilla in the final.
Villarreal has also made three changes from their last game, a 2-1 victory over Valencia. Torres returns to the backline in place of Mandi, who is relegated to the bench. Chukwueze replaces the injured Yeremi Pino on the right flank, while Coquelin replaces Trigueros on the left. Gerard Moreno is still out with an injury, so Lo Celso will partner Danjuma in the final third.
Liverpool has made three changes from the team that defeated Everton last time out. Konate replaces Van Dijk in the back four, with Matip dropping to the bench. Henderson replaces Keita in midfield, while Diaz replaces Jota in the final, with both ousted players starting from the bench.
Sergio Asenjo, Mario Gaspar, Paco Alcacer, Vicente Iborra, Manu Trigueros, Boulaye Dia, Ruben Pena, Aissa Mandi, Moi Gomez, Alfonso Pedraza, Serge Aurier, Filip Jorgensen
VILLARREAL (4-4-2): Geronimo Rulli; Juan Foyth, Raul Albiol, Pau Torres, Pervis Estupinan; Samuel Chukwueze, Dani Parejo, Etienne Capoue, Francis Coquelin; Giovani Lo Celso, Arnaut Danjuma; Giovani Lo Celso, Arnaut Danjuma.
SUBS FOR LIVERPOOL: James Milner, Naby Keita, Joe Gomez, Adrian, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Takumi Minamino, Diogo Jota, Divock Origi, Joel Matip, Rhys Williams, Caoimhin Kelleher, and Harvey Elliott.
ALION; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ibrahima Konate, Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson; Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Luis Diaz;
Villarreal produced the Champions League performance of the season, knocking out Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals. Unai Emery’s men won the first leg 1-0 to take a 1-0 lead into the second leg in Bavaria. The Spanish team was disciplined at the back, and despite Robert Lewandowski’s equalizer, Samuel Chukwueze came to the fore in the dying stages to score the game-winning goal. They’ve beaten Getafe on the road and Valencia since, so they’ll be pumped this evening.
To defeat Benfica in the last round of the Champions League, Liverpool put in an outstanding performance. A strong performance in the first leg secured the Reds’ place in the tie, followed by an entertaining 3-3 draw at Anfield in the second leg to secure their place in the semi-finals. Jurgen Klopp’s men have been in superb form since, knocking Manchester City out of the FA Cup and beating Manchester United and Everton in the Merseyside derby. Tonight, Liverpool will be looking for another clinical performance.
Good evening and welcome to the live commentary of Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final first-leg match against Villarreal at Anfield.