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 defense has been nothing if not obdurate. The Spanish side have frustrated their hosts, who have been conspicuously lacking a bit of cutting edge or killer pass in the final third.
45+1 mins: Villarreal enjoy a rare excursion out of their own half but it doesn’t last long.
42 mins: Oof! Thiago Alcantara hits the top of the left upright with a curled shot from distance.
41 mins: 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 mins: Luis Diaz is penalized 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 mins: 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 mins: 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 mins: A Salah volley is blocked by a Giovani Lo Celso lunge. It’s a Liverpool corner, which Villarreal clears.
33 mins: 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 mins: 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 mins: 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 mins: 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 mins: Mo Salah curls a left-footed effort a little high and wide after being teed up by Mane. Close but no cigar.
25 mins: A heavy touch from Luis Diaz, who was trying to pick out Trent Alexander-Arnold near the byline, skids wide. Villarreal goal kick.
24 mins: Coquelin blocks an attempted Trent Alexander-Arnold cross, putting the ball out for a corner. Nothing comes of it.
23 mins: 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 mins: With almost a quarter of this game gone, it’s fair to say it is not a resumption 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 mins: 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 mins: Robertson’s swinger is headed clear by Raul Albiol on the edge of the six-yard box.
15 mins: Liverpool are very much in the ascendancy but Villarreal are hanging in there. Corner for the hosts.
14 mins: 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 mins: 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 mins: Villarreal win their first corner of the game but the delivery doesn’t clear the first man. Liverpool clear.
7 mins: 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 mins: 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, Capua, 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 referee: Pawel Sokolnicki and Tomasz Listkiewicz
- Fourth official: Slavko Vincic
- 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 do not 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 Champions 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.