News

[NEWS][bleft]

ENTERTAINMENT

[Entertainment][bsummary]

Sports

[Sports][twocolumns]

Movies

[Movies][twocolumns]

Liverpool qualify for Europa League final

The Reds delivered an accomplished
performance as they ousted Villarreal 3-0
on the night and 3-1 on aggregate to
advance to the Europa League final in
Switzerland

When Jurgen Klopp heard Liverpool
supporters were planning to welcome the
team bus into Anfield like they did for
against Borussia Dortmund, his smile was as
wide as the attacking ambition his side
showed on Thursday night.

“It was great, it was outstanding, it was the
first time, it was wonderful,” he said of the
reception on the evening the Reds ousted his
former club 4-3 in one of the Europa
League’s most exhilarating encounters.
“It let the game start earlier than usual.
Normally the games start in the stadium, but
this game started in front of the stadium. It
was great to see, wonderful to feel and
pretty, pretty special.”
It was the same again against Villarreal,
who arrived at Anfield with a 1-0 lead from
the first leg of the semi-final, but saw their
confidence sapped by the scenes that
greeted them on L4.

Home fans lined the streets two hours prior
to kick off - banners proudly waving, red
smoke circling, scarves twirling - to inspire
Liverpool long before the whistle. Once the
players had disembarked to the sound of
their continuous chanting, the fans
continued their carnival inside the stadium.
The volume was amplified for the warm-up,
and Klopp stood facing the Kop, soaking in
the support, smiling before beating his chest
and heading down the tunnel. He was right,
the game had started well before referee
Viktor Kassai's signal.

Villarreal's nickname, Yellow Submarine, is
inspired by their club colours and of course
the 1966 Beatles film and soundtrack of the
same name. It is fitting that it should be
sunk by another merry band from Liverpool.
Anfield had that familiar glorious air
around it, not just owing to the stirring
build-up, but also because it was the first
home game since the conclusion of the
Hillsborough inquests, which returned a
verdict of unlawful killing. A mosaic reading
“96, The Greatest Football Family” covered
three sections of the ground, with Villarreal
also offering their own tribute to the victims
of the 1989 tragedy at half-time.

Fuelled by both aspects, the players did not
disappoint in a comprehensive 3-0 triumph.
In the opening minutes, Liverpool were an
attacking blur that rattled the visitors. The
expansive approach from Klopp’s men did,
however, mean Villarreal would be presented
with opportunities on the break. On five
minutes, Simon Mignolet was forced to save
Mario Gaspar’s clip from Roberto Soldado's
knockdown. If the Liga side felt some
encouragement from that attack, it was
short-lived as Bruno Soriano bundled
Roberto Firmino’s ball into his own net under
pressure from Daniel Sturridge.

As expected, the hosts showed the ambition,
invention and initiative as Villarreal parked
their Yellow Submarine in two banks of four,
waiting for an opportunity to punish a
Liverpool mistake. Every so often, they
broke, but without causing too much trouble,
before ending up a man down after Victor
Ruiz was shown a second yellow.

Liverpool should have had a greater lead
heading into the interval, but after half-
time, Firmino turned on the class as both
Sturridge and Adam Lallana struck to
confirm their place in the Europa League
final.

The all-round performance from Klopp’s
side was accomplished, and when contrasted
to the club’s start in this season’s
continental campaign, it’s unfathomable
that they’ve reached its climax.

That is credit to the manager and the way
he’s transformed the mentality and
atmosphere around not just the Europa
League, but Liverpool in its entirety.
In the aftermath of the victory, he faced all
sections of the crowd and punched the air,
as supporters responded with a battle cry.
Klopp has reached two finals in his first
seven months in English football and it’s only
the beginning. Fans should get used to
welcoming the team bus in as there’ll be no
shortage of major occasions under the
German.