70 min: Estupinan concedes a corner as Liverpool continue to turn the screw.
68 min: Liverpool are rampant. Luis Diaz curls a low, deflected shot wide of the upright moments after Rulli had parried a Virgil van Dijk shot from distance that seemed to swerve in various directions as it approached him.
66 min: Albiol anticipates and cuts out a Salah backheel into the path of Trent Alexander-Arnold as the Liverpool right-back went marauding into the Villarreal penalty area after linking up with his team-mate and galloping forward in anticipation of the return pass.
65 min: At the far post and on the volley, Andy Robertson sidefoots home a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross from the right. Offside and there was nothing marginal about this call.
63 min: Replays and a freeze-frame show Mane managed to stay onside by a whisker as he ran on to a beautifuully weighted short pass from Mo Salah in the Villarreal penalty area before prodding home Liverpool’s second.
61 min: Villarreal are on the ropes and in a total panic as the tie threatens to get completely away from them. Gio Lo Celso is booked for a foul on Andy Robertson.
60 min: Salah dribbles into the Villarreal box and goes down, apparently the victim of a Juan Foyth clothesline. No penalty, despite vociferous appeals from Liverpool’s players and fans.
58 min: Henderson’s been having having an ineffective game by his own lofty standards but he helped fire his side ahead. His attempted cross took a huge deflection off Pervis Estupinan, looped over Rulli and in to the Villarrealk goal. It’s gone down as an Estupinan own goal but there were, it must be said, a queue of Liverpool players waiting to convert the cross if the Ecuadorian hadn’t stuck out his leg.
57 min: Yes he was. Mane’s goal survives a VAR check from Tomasz Kwiatkowski and Liverpool are two goals to the good. That’s his 20th of the season, his sixth in his past seven appearances.
Now it’s two! Sadio Mane doubles Liverpool’s lead, scoring their second in two minutes. He runs on to a weighted short pass from Salah and stabs home, but was he offside?
Liverpool are in front. A Jordan Henderson cross from the right takes a wicked deflection, loops over the outstretched hand of Rulli and into the Villarreal goal.
52 min: From a central position, Alexander-Arnold dinks a lovely ball into the Villarreal penalty area for Luis Diaz. He doesn’t connect properly with his header and Rulli gathers comfortably.
50 min: Fabinho hacks the ball home from seven yards at a Liverpool corner but his “goal” is ruled out for offside. Virgil van Dijk was offside in the build-up as Sadio Mane headed the outswinger back into the mixer.
48 min: Villarreal left-back Pervis Estupinan is booked for a foul on Salah near the edge of the Villarreal box. Nothing comes of the free-kick but Liverpool continue to apply pressure.
46 min: Mo Salah sends a cross gliding into the Villarreal box and Villarreal centre-half Pau Torres gets his head to it. Luckily for him, Geronimo Rulli was on hand to catch his inadvertently goal-bound “effort”.
46 min: Play resumes with no changes in personnel on either side.
Peep! A first half that was extremely low on quality is brought to a close by our Polish referee, Szymon Marciniak. Liverpool have dominated throughout but Villarreal’s defence has been nothing if not obdurate. The Spanish side have frsutrated their hosts, who have been conspicuously lacking a bit of cutting edge or killer pass in the final third.
45+1 min: Villarreal enjoy a rare excursion out of their own half but it doesn’t last long.
42 min: Oof! Thiago Alcantara hits the top of the left upright with a curled shot from distance.
41 min: Mane overhits a short pass to Luis Diaz on the edge of the Villarreal penalty area. Juan Foyth slides in to steal the ball with a perfectly timed if slightly risky tackle. The denizens of the Kop appeal for a penalty but none is forthcoming.
39 min: Luis Diaz is penalised for a foul on Dani Parejo near the edge of the Villarreal penalty area. The visitors are making this game as attritional as possible for Liverpool and the natives in the stands are getting audibly restless.
36 min: With Villarreal on a rare attack, Dani Parejo tries to pick out Lo Celso with a ball from the touchline. His target gets a touch on the ball but is on the stretch and can’t control it.
35 min: From the byline, Alexander-Arnold first-times a Robertson ball from deep across the the Villarreal penalty area. Salah gets on the end of his cross but steer it wide.
34 min: A Salah volley is blocked by a Giovani Lo Celso lunge. It’s a Liverpool corner, which Villarreal clear.
33 min: Liverpool keep hammering on the Villarreal door. A Mane shot is deflected past Rulli by Raul Albiol but drifts narrowly wide of the upright.
32 min: Villarreal goalkeeper Rulli parries a shot into no-man’s land but gets away with it, then Virgil van Dijk is booked for a bodycheck on Samuel Chukwueze.
31 min: Liverpool attack down the right again with ALexander-Arnold and Salah linking up to good effect. Salah tries to pick out a Mane run but Pau Torres intercepts and clears.
27 min: Pau Torres goes to ground after shipping a ball in the face from a Trent Alexander-Aarnold free-kick. There’s a break in play while the cartoon budgies flying around his head are waved away by the physio.
27 min: Mo Salah curls a left-footed effort a little high and wide after being teed up by Mane. Close but no cigar.
25 min: A heavy touch from Luis Diaz, who was trying to pick out Trent Alexander-Arnold near the byline, skids wide. Villarreal goal-kick.
24 min: Coquelin blocks an attempted Trent Alexander-Arnold cross, putting the ball out for a corner. Nothing comes of it.
23 min: Thiago picks out Henderson near the byline and his low cross-shot from a very tight angle goes into the side-netting. In the Villarreal goal, Rulli had any danger covered at his near post as he ushered the ball wide.
20 min: With almost a quarter of this game gone, it’s fair to say it is not a reprise of last night’s match between Manchester City and Real Madrid in terms of excitement or entertainment. Both teams will be happy enough with how things are going so far but Liverpool are very much on top.
18 min: Arnaud Danjuma receives the ball halfway inside the Liverpool half and tries to play it wide to Samuel Chukwueze on the right. Andy Robertson intercepts.
16 min: Robertson’s inswinger is headed clear by Raul Albiol on the edge of the six-yard box.
15 min: Liverpool are very much in the ascendency but Villarreal are hanging in there. Corner for the hosts.
14 min: Luis Diaz tries to curl a shot home from outside the Villarreal penalty area. Geronimo Rulli blocks it but fails to hold on to it, but catches it at his second attempt.
12 min: Mane beats the Villarreal offside trap to run on to a dinked Salah cross from the right. The ball is slightly behind him and he has to contort himself in mid-air. Wide.
11 min: Villarreal win their first corner of the game but the delivery doesn’t clear the first man. Liverpool clear.
7 min: An Ibrahima Konate header lands at the feet of Sadio Mane just outside the Villarreal six-yard box. He wasn’t expecting it, isn’t able to control the ball and it clanks off his shin and out of harm’s way.
5 min: Andy Robertson attempts to head a cross-field pass from Thiago across the face of the Villarreal goal. Wide. There’s another thumbs-up for the Spaniard, who must feel like he’s been granted an audience with Paul McCartney, such is the number of approving thumbs being held aloft in his direction.
3 min: A raking Thiago Alcantara pass from deep aimed towards Mo Salah is a little too weighty and bounces wide of the Villarreal goal. The Egyptian gives his team-mate the thumbs-up.
2 min: Andy Robertson and Virgil van Dijk exchange several passes in quick succession, the former wide on the left touchline and his Dutch team-mate about 10 yards inside the Villarreal half, in the middle of the pitch.
1 min: Liverpool get the ball rolling on a balmy spring evening on Merseyside. They are attacking the Kop in the first half, having been forced to change ends by their visitors, who won the toss.
Not long now: With the players ready to emerge from the tunnel and one-tenth of the population of the town of Villarreal mingling with the locals at Anfield, You’ll Never Walk Alone blares out over the PA. Both sets of fans are giving it plenty as they sing along.
That Liverpool team: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp makes three changes to the team that beat Everton on Sunday for tonight’s game.
Ibrahima Konate replaces Joel Matip in central defence, Jordan Henderson is in for Naby Keita in midfield and Luis Diaz starts ahead of Diogo Jota. Kostas Tsimikas and Curtis Jones are both absent due to non-Covid-related illness.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Konate, van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago, Salah, Mane, Diaz.
Subs: Milner, Keita, Gomez, Adrian, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino, Jota, Origi, Matip, Kelleher, Elliott, Williams.
Villarreal: Rulli, Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Estupinan, Chukwueze, Parejo, Capoue, Coquelin, Lo Celso, Danjuma.
Subs: Sergio Asenjo, Mario, Alcacer, Iborra, Trigueros, Dia, Pena, Mandi, Moi Gomez, Pedraza, Aurier, Jorgensen.
Referee: Szymon Marciniak (Poland)
Tonight’s match officials
- Referee: Szymon Marciniak
- Assistant referees: Paweł Sokolnicki and Tomasz Listkiewicz
- Fourth official: Slavko Vinčić
- Video Assistant Referee: Tomasz Kwiatkowski
In the latest episode of our award-winning podcast, Max Rushden and guests including yours truly, Nicky Bandini and Sid Lowe pick over the bones of last night’s epic ding-dong at the Etihad Stadium, look ahead to tonight’s game at Anfield and chat to Calum Jacobs about his excellent new anthology A New Formation: How Black Footballers Shaped The Modern Game.
If you’re not already a subscriber you can tune in by clicking the link below or sign up for free in all the usual places. And if you like what you hear, we’re touring in the UK and Ireland this summer, so why not come along to see us at a venue near (or very far away) from you. Click here for more information or to buy tickets.
Early team news
Roberto Firmino is Liverpool’s only injury concern, the Brazilian striker having missed Liverpool’s past two Premier League games with a foot injury. While it’s nothing serious, tonight’s game is expected to come a mite too soon for him. “I don’t think [he is ready] yet,” the Liverpool boss told the club website. “He is running outside and that’s good, obviously, but I am not sure.
Villarreal are likely to be a couple of Morenos down, with former Liverpool defender Alberto still recovering from a cruciate injury that he suffered in early March. His namesake-but-no-relation Gerard is also a doubt with a hamstring injury that ruled the striker out of his side’s derby win over Valencia last Tuesday. Winger Yeremi Pino definitely misses out with a twanged hamstring.
With the dust barely settled on last night’s thriller at the Etihad Stadium, Liverpool and Villarreal go toe-to-toe at Anfield in the first leg of this season’s other Champipons League semi-final.
They’ve a hard act to follow but while Villarreal are the least fancied of the teams in the last four, their elimination of both Juventus and Bayern Munich in the knockout stages means only the very naive would underestimate the capabilities of the team from the small town in Castellón. Kick-off at Anfield is at 8pm (BST) but stay tuned in the meantime for team news and build-up.