After a dramatic set of semifinal games, Liverpool gets Past Villarreal while Real Madrid eliminates Manchester City in late fashion.
By: Emmanuel Mendez
The Champions League knockout games have seen lots of drama, and the semifinals didn’t disappoint. Both semifinal games showed why all four clubs, Liverpool, Villarreal, Real Madrid, and Manchester City, were at the final stages of this competition.
All clubs had a chance to make the final, but only Liverpool and Real Madrid can be said to have accomplished the goal.
The Liverpool against Villarreal game had many fans predicting an easy Liverpool win in the final. The first leg seems to show proof of that as Liverpool earned a 2-0 comfortable win at Anfield.
The first half of the first leg showcased Liverpool having trouble breaking down the Villarreal defense that also troubled the likes of Juventus and Bayern Munich.
The second half showed the classic Liverpool that could break down those deep defense lines and scored two goals in three minutes. A cross by Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson, was deflected by Pervis Estupinan, which got past Geronimo Rulli for 1-0.
Sadio Mane would score a minute later, thanks to a brilliant pass by Mohammed Salah.
Liverpool could’ve scored more but couldn’t convert; thus, they decided to control the rest of the game since Villareal wouldn’t take a shot on target. After that performance by Villarreal, it seemed almost impossible for a comeback.
In only the 3rd minute of the second leg, Bouyale Dia would score for Villarreal after a pass by Etienne Capoue that went through the Liverpool defense. Villareal would now be down by one goal, 2-1 down on aggregate.
Villarreal looked completely different from the team that played at Anfield, creating chances and putting pressure on Liverpool. Liverpool struggled with simple passes and wanted to have trouble playing at the back.
In the first half, Lo Celso almost got past Allison, a controversial moment. The referee and VAR decided not to call a penalty.
Thanks to Francis Coquelin, the Spanish side would score again in the 41st minute. Villarreal tied the aggregate score.
Liverpool looked vulnerable, and Villareal had all the advantage until the second half started. Liverpool brought on Luiz Diaz over Diogo Jota and seemed to have changed the game.
In the 62nd minute, the comeback would start, as Salah found Fabinho in the box and shot it past Rulli’s legs. Trent Alexander Arnold passes a great cross five minutes later and finds Diaz, who heads it between Rulli’s legs.
Rulli had a terrible second half as he let in two goals between his legs and wasn’t doing good goalkeeping.
To complete the comeback, Mane gets a great ball by Naby Keita at the halfway line, and Mane gets past Rulli and Juan Foyth and pushes the ball into the net for the 3-2.
That was enough for Liverpool to advance and win the semifinal fixture 5-2. Liverpool makes the UCL final again and makes 3 UCL finals in 5 seasons with Jurgen Klopp.
Liverpool will look to win their 7th UCL title.
The other semi final fixture might be one of the greatest UCL semi final series of all time based on the number of goals and drama. The first leg will be iconic for years to come as Manchester City defeated Real Madrid 4-3 at the Etihad Stadium.
Kevin De Bruyne quickly scored for City in the first two minutes. De Bruyne headed it in past Courtois, and the City dominance would continue throughout the match.
Gabriel Jesus scores nine minutes later after a mistiming control by David Alaba. City is now 2-0 up.
Real Madrid would slowly get into the game, creating chances, and then finally, their in-form striker, Karim Benzema, would convert after a cross from Ferland Mendy. Benzema side volleys passed Ederson for 2-1.
In the second half, Foden scored a header for 3-1 after a beautiful cross from first-half substitute Fernandinho. Madrid responded right back only two minutes later after Vinicius used his pace to get past Fernandinho and convert past Ederson for the 3-2.
City was up 4-2 and was comfortably winning the game. Bernardo Silva scores a screamer after a possible foul would be called for on Zinchenko. Madrid would respond one last time, and this time via penalty.
A handball by Laporte allowed Benzema to convert a beautiful Panenka penalty to make it 4-3. The game ended for either team at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The first half of the second leg game didn’t match the intensity of the first leg, as the game would end 0-0 at halftime. Both sides would create chances and look dangerous, but neither would be able to convert.
Madrid looked the more dangerous side at first in the second half, with a terrible miss by Vinicius. In the 74th minute, Riyad Mahrez converted by a powerful shot in the near post, passing Courtois. That looked to be it as the aggregate score was 5-3 in favor of the Citizens.
Substitute Rodrygo would be key for Real Madrid to make a magical comeback. In the 90th minute, Benzema would put a ball in the box for Rodrigo to score and make it 1-1 on the night and 5-4 on aggregate.
They needed one goal to tie the aggregate score and go to extra time. Only one minute later, Dani Carvajal put in a cross that Asensio headed, and then Rodrygo to score again.
There were incredible scenes as Madrid tied the aggregate score in minutes, which led to extra time. Momentum was on Madrid’s side and they would be awarded a penalty after a foul by Ruben Dias on Benzema.
Benzema would score the penalty in the 95th minute to complete the comeback and make it 3-1 on the night and 6-5 on aggregate.
City couldn’t score after that and were close like Fernandinho missing inches away after a save by Courtois late in the first half of extra time. Madrid advanced to yet another final and will look to get their 14th UCL title.
Real Madrid will meet Liverpool in Paris and will be a repeat of the final in 2018 and in 1981, which took place in Paris but in the Parc des Princes. On May 28th, Europe will crown a new champion of the Champions League!