English Premier League side Liverpool are in control of the UEFA Champions League semi-final tie after an emphatic 2-0 victory over Villarreal at Anfield.
Liverpool triumphed despite facing a massed wall of yellow shirts as the Spanish side defended stoutly.
Nevertheless, the home side dominated throughout, overwhelming Villarreal with their speed, intensity and quality. Villarreal’s defensive excellence frustrated Liverpool at times in the first half; even though Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara hit the post. But the dam burst after the break.
Henderson’s cross deflected in off Pervis Estupinan in the 53rd minute. Two minutes later, Sadio Mane poked Mo Salah’s clever pass into the net from close range.
Villarreal failed to muster a single shot on target.
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But the Spanish side were more than happy to get away from Anfield without further damage. The second leg in Spain in a week’s time is expected to be another tense affair. However, Liverpool are strong favourites to reach the final in Paris.
The semi-final ties will probably serve up another all-English final after last season’s contest between Manchester City and Chelsea. In the other semi-final, Manchester City will take a slender lead into their Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid after a sensational game at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s side were 4-3 winners in a wild, highly entertaining tie.
But somehow, Manchester City were left to rue a number of other big chances. However, they were punished by the ruthless visitors. Real Madrid had Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior to thank for staying within touching distance of their opponents.
Kevin De Bruyne opened the scoring inside two minutes with the fastest goal in Champions League semi-final history. Thereafter, Gabriel Jesus doubled the lead nine minutes later. An excellent Benzema volley – which came out of nothing – halved the deficit to make it 2-1 at half-time.
There was much more of the same attacking threats in the second period.