Classic Matches: Liverpool 3 Villarreal 0

On this day in 2016, Jurgen Klopp led his Liverpool side to their first European final of his reign, with a 3-0 victory at home to Villarreal.

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This game has somewhat been forgotten as a key game in the beginning of Jurgen Klopp’s time at Liverpool.

It represented the beginning of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool career, the emotion and belief that ran through the players and the crowd was magnificent.

The win showed the fans that the team was back on track under Jurgen Klopp, challenging for European silverware even without a summer transfer window to invest in the squad. Liverpool FC were back in the European picture.

Despite losing the first leg 1-0 in Spain, with a last-minute winner from substitute Adrian, the Reds still felt quietly confident that they would progress to the final.

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The wild celebrations from Villarreal players, manager and fans set the tone for the second-leg and the hostile atmosphere the fans created, before and during the match.

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Before the match, Klopp commented himself on the celebrations saying how Villarreal celebrated the last-minute goal.

They scored in the last minute of the game to make it 1-0 so it’s not a big surprise that they celebrated like this. It’s more about when my colleague (Villarreal boss Marcelino) said after the game that 1-0 was the result he dreamed of.

Klopp also commented on how the Anfield crowd would be key to help securing a Liverpool win;

I do not know what they know about Anfield.

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If we can create with our game a similar atmosphere as Dortmund then it will be much more difficult for Villarreal than they imagine in this moment.

The Anfield crowd delivered.

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A European semi-final saw a sea of red flags, scarfs all around the ground creating a huge cauldron within the stadium. Liverpool were ready.

The Reds levelled the tie on aggregate after Bruno Soriano’s early own goal set the tone for the evening.

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A relentless, aggressive and powerful performance from the Reds blew Villarreal away.

Jurgen Klopp’s pressing mentality was too much for the Spanish club to handle as the Reds spurned chances to go ahead in the tie in the first half.

Lallana missed a glorious chance after captain James Milner threaded through an excellent pass into his path only for Adam to miss the ball and watch it trickle wide of the post.

The best moment of the night came on 63 minutes.

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Daniel Sturridge, who was left out the team in Spain, then put the reds in command with a low finish, after a through ball from Roberto Firmino.

It wasn’t goal that was the best moment of the night but the celebration. Sturridge, who was a key performer during the Europa League run, ran away in delight.

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Flinging his arms about, a knee slide with his arms out wide, fist bumping the air. There was no dancing from Daniel that night but his raw emotion of helping his side reach a European final.

There has been plenty of debate regarding Daniel’s career at the Reds, scintillating at the start but with injuries came regression and some questioned his commitment to the reds, but that celebration showed how much he cared for his side during a time of rebuild under Klopp.

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Despite only leading the tie by one goal, the party tricks came out. Roberto Firmino left Spurs reject Soldado for dead with a turn that stunned the Anfield crowd.

Villarreal centre-back Victor Ruiz was then sent off for two yellow cards which gave the cue for Liverpool to book their place in a European final.

Adam Lallana secured the win with a tap in from two yards, ten minutes from time, to set up a clash with reigning Europa League champions Sevilla in Basel.

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Klopp said after the game;

Wonderful night, brilliant game from my side. What a performance.

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Despite going on to lose the final to Sevilla the reds must look back at this game and Europa League run that Jurgen Klopp had started change fans’ mindsets from doubters to believers.

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