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Liverpool 2-0 Villarreal: 5 Talking Points as the Reds secure a comfortable win| UEFA Champions League 2021-22

Jordan Henderson celebrates after Liverpool's opener.
Jordan Henderson celebrates after Liverpool's opener.

Liverpool beat Villarreal 2-0 at Anfield in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday, April 27.

The Premier League team looked like the better side from the starting whistle. Jurgen Klopp's men looked resolute to seal the victory but Villarreal frustrated them with their defensive grit. The visitors thwarted everything Liverpool had in store in the opening half.

The Reds continued with their attacking approach and were awarded for their persistence in the 53rd minute. Jordan Henderson's cross from the right took a heavy deflection off Pervis Estupinan to end in the back of the net. Geronimo Rulli failed to palm it away and Liverpool had their opener.

Minutes later, Sadio Mane doubled his side's advantage. The Senegalese international capped off a brilliant passage as he tucked one past Rulli after receiving a brilliant through ball from Mohamed Salah. The English side created a few more chances but Villarreal absorbed the pressure for the remainder of the match and kept the scoreline to 2-0.

A big first-leg performance from the Reds 💪#UCL | #LIVVIL https://t.co/jLEMjlQxDr

On that note, here's a look at the five biggest talking points from the game:


#5 A captain's performance by Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson had a great game.
Jordan Henderson had a great game.

Jordan Henderson had a great game against Villarreal. The Englishman's cross ended up in the back of the net following a deflection by Pervis Estupinan. His link-up play with Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho was fantastic and the midfield trio outclassed Villarreal in the center of the park.

Henderson won four duels, made six recoveries and won three of his four attempted tackles throughout the game. The 31-year-old stepped up for his side and was vital to breaking the deadlock when Liverpool were finding it quite difficult to breach Villarreal's defensive structure.


#4 Villarreal fail to make an impact upfront

Samuel Chukwueze and Sadio Mane tussle it out.
Samuel Chukwueze and Sadio Mane tussle it out.

Villarreal did not pose any threat to Liverpool going forward. The visitors had just one shot throughout the game.

Villarreal failed to hit even one shot on target as the forwards were unable to break through as their opponents' back-line stood tall. Alisson Becker had nothing to do throughout the game.

1 - Villarreal attempted just one shot in this match; the joint-fewest shots (1) and shots on target (0) by any side in a UEFA Champions League semi-final since this data is available (2003-04), along with Inter vs Barcelona in 2009-10 (1 shot, 0 on target). Suffocated. https://t.co/vEqekSQAZ8

Unai Emery will have to change his side's approach if they are to change their fortunes in the return leg.

Villarreal were no match for the Reds going forward as they suffocated upfront. They were unable to move out of their own half and when they did, they failed to find the right pass in the final third.


#3 Sadio Mane closes in on another record

Sadio Mane in action against Villarreal.
Sadio Mane in action against Villarreal.

Sadio Mane had another impactful performance for Liverpool. The Senegalese international, continuing his fine form, scored the home team's second goal of the night in the 55th minute.

Mane combined beautifully with Mohamed Salah before poking one past Geronimo Rulli. His off-the-ball movement to create space for himself was sublime.

🌍 Máximos goleadores africanos en las eliminatorias (era Champions League):⚽️1⃣4⃣ Didier Drogba 🇨🇮⚽️1⃣4⃣ Sadio Mané 🇸🇳⚽️1⃣1⃣ Mohamed Salah 🇪🇬⚽️1⃣0⃣ Samuel Eto'o 🇨🇲#UCL https://t.co/eOL4qfjvVh

In the process, he scored his 14th UEFA Champions League goal in the knockout stages of the competition. He is tied with Didier Drogba as the African to score the highest number of goals in the knockout phase of the UCL.

Mane is ahead of his teammate Salah, who has 11 goals in the knockout phase of the Champions League. Mane will be hoping to score his 15th knockout goal in the return leg of this clash.


#2 Thiago impresses for Liverpool

Thiago celebrates with Jurgen Klopp.
Thiago celebrates with Jurgen Klopp.

Thiago Alcanatra deservedly won the 'Man of the Match' award for his fabulous display against Villarreal. The Spanish midfielder controlled the tempo of the game and was key to the transitionary plays. Thiago's link-up play and ball control in tight spaces was amazing.

Shining under the Anfield lights again 😍Special, @Thiago6 🪄 https://t.co/X9Gnjwa966

Thiago completed 99 passes throughout the game with an accuracy of 96%, made 10 recoveries, won three duels, made five interceptions, won one tackle and made one clearance throughout the game. He also played nine accurate long balls.

Thiago even came close to scoring but his thunderous strike was denied by the woodwork.


#1 Liverpool have one leg in the finals

Liverpool players celebrate after scoring against Villarreal.
Liverpool players celebrate after scoring against Villarreal.

Liverpool's relentless performance was awarded with a comfortable victory in the end. The intensity was unmatchable as Villarreal struggled to even get out of their own half throughout the game. The Reds managed to take 19 shots throughout the game, out of which five were on target.

"We kept them quiet... It was important because of the counter-attacking threat they have.""The boys were really in the game from the first until the last second." Jürgen Klopp is delighted with his side's semi-final first leg display this evening 🔴🎙 @TheDesKelly #UCL https://t.co/4maRD27UcV

The Merseyside club had more than 70 percent of the possession and neutralized Villarreal's counter-attacking threat with perfection. With this win, the Reds have won nine games in an UCL campaign for the first time ever in their history. Jurgen Klopp would have been quite pleased with his team's performance.

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Edited by Puranjay Dixit
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