Arsenal legend Thierry Henry has suggested that Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp should have not started forward Diogo Jota against Villarreal. The two sides played an extremely entertaining second leg of their Champions League semi-final tie, which the Reds won 5-2 on aggregate.
Jota has had a remarkable season so far, stepping up for Liverpool and chipping in with crucial goals on numerous occasions (21 this season). The Portuguese has deservedly earned the right to start games week in and week out for the Reds.
But it wasn't the best of nights for the 25-year old, who was substituted at half-time as Luis Diaz came on to change the encounter on its head. Liverpool were 2-0 down going into half-time but eventually emerged as 3-2 winners.
Henry, while speaking on CBS Sport (via HITC) at half-time, said:
“It’s not a game for Diogo Jota. He’s a player who arrives late in the box from crosses, when you dominate. He’s kind of good [in these games]. But Luis Diaz can bail you out by dribbling. You need someone who can dribble past players right now. Salah can do that. Mane can do that. But maybe not Diogo Jota like that.”
The Frenchman saw his wish granted by the Liverpool boss as he introduced the Colombian winger in the second-half and the switch worked in their favor. Although he was on the pitch for just 45 minutes, Diaz had an unparralled impact.
He registered four shots, the most anyone managed on the night, of which one landed in the back of the net.
The winger had a pass accuracy of 90% and he successfully completed four dribbles. Moreover, it was his energy and desire that really troubled Unai Emery's side who looked tired as the minutes went by.
Meanwhile, Jota registered one attempt on goal, which wasn't on target. He gave just six accurate passes, had no successful dribbles and lost four of his attempted six duels.
Villarreal had Liverpool pinned down at the end of the first-half
The Yellow Submarine devised a game plan that many have tried to come up with, but haven't succeeded so far this season. Making Liverpool look inferior and second-best is not easy. But in the first 45 minutes of the second-leg of the UCL semi-final, Emery and his men accomplished this rare feat.
Liverpool were unable to string passes together and win second balls on multiple occasions, which is very uncharacteristic of them. Villarreal were able to get past their backline with some clever first touch passes. It took the home side just three minutes to get on the scoresheet through Boulaye Dia.
Etienne Capoue was the hero of the first half as he provided two crucial assists for Villarreal's two goals of the night. Francis Coquelin's 41st minute header drew the Spanish side level 2-2 on aggregate.
However, the influence of Luis Diaz in the second-half and mistakes from Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli helped Liverpool bounce back in the tie. Goals from Fabinho, Diaz and Sadio Mane helped the Reds secure their Champions League final berth.