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Liverpool must not forget incredible run as the Reds join a special Champions League line

The Reds have made it to three finals in five years but only reaching the parade game in Paris deserves high praise after eliminating Villarreal in the semi-finals (Author: Gardener)

RedsAs Andy Robertson sat down after another breathless and brilliant night, he offered a pause for thought. It's absolutely true, of course, but some at Liverpool could be forgiven just looking to what's next because Jurgen Klopp has made those great days so routine. After beating Villarreal 5-2 on aggregate, the German ensured that was three Champions League finals in five years, making ten in total. It's a consistency not seen since the club's greatest successes began, when Bob Paisley also made it a third time in five years. It was Klopp's first time at the club and he said the feeling was still the same. The German had been asked how that compares to reaching that stage in 2018 and 2019. "Excellent," beamed Klopp. “It feels like the first final. The noises, everything, the nights." Liverpool obviously have the biggest ambitions in football as they aim for an unprecedented quadrupling and much of the talk obviously revolves around the achievements of playing in every possible game of a season but the simple achievement , just reaching a European Cup final should not be forgotten. It's become the world's biggest annual sporting event as Uefa tries to give it more modern trappings and make it 'like the Super Bowl', but its real glory comes from the sheer seriousness of seven decades of football's greatest. Klopp recognized that and reminded his players. They follow the sport's most extraordinary lineage and share the same stage as Alfredo Di Stefano, Eusebio, Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Lionel Messi and so many of the biggest names. But then look at this Liverpool team and the legacy they leave behind. It's worth noting that Sadio Mane acted more like a support act in that first finale of 2018. He's a modern force now, along with Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and - of course - Salah as they prepare for their third experience of such an occasion. Klopp encouraged that. He has now led an England team to more finals than any other coach other than Paisley and Sir Alex Ferguson. Many will also point out that the Manchester United great's four finals took place over two decades, while Klopp's took place in half a decade. It underscores once again how economically stratified European football has become. Wealth was more evenly distributed, meaning there were increasing numbers of contenders from across the continent. Now we've got to the point where one of the wealthiest clubs in Spain – because that's Villarreal – is seen as a real underdog. It could still mean we have a fourth all-English final and the third in four years. It doesn't matter to Klopp or Liverpool though. The German finds himself at one of England's big clubs at this extremely propitious time. Now that Klopp has signed a new contract, we'll likely be talking about more records being broken. Liverpool are already aiming to match AC Milan's seven Champions League titles to move them to second in the pantheon behind Madrid's 13. You still have to play this game and try to win it. Just being there, one must not forget, is a very special achievement.

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Luis Diaz's momentum, Jurgen Klopp's courage keep Liverpool's quadruple in play

After Liverpool went down to Villarreal in the Champions League semifinals, Liverpool switched into high gear as only they can. (Author: Gardener)

LiverpoolAlthough they can now prepare for a 10th Champions League final later this month, against either Manchester City or Real Madrid in Paris, the club's incredible resilience in European competition needed to be proven once again on Tuesday to clinch a 3rd place 2-1 win over Villarreal at the Estadio to seal de la Ceramica. Jurgen Klopp's side were so poor in the first half - passed, passed and passed by their Spanish opponents - that goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin gave Villarreal a 2-0 lead that nullified Liverpool's two-goal advantage from the first leg last week. Liverpool's three touches in Villarreal's penalty area before half-time were the lowest in a first half of the entire season in all competitions. Had referee Danny Makkelie awarded the home side a penalty in the 37th minute - four minutes before Coquelin's headed goal - after goalkeeper Alisson Becker came on to bring down Giovani Lo Celso, Liverpool could have been 3-0 down at half-time as the season threatened to implode before a blizzard of 23,000 yellow flags. But Klopp's decision to replace Diogo Jota with Luis Diaz at the break turned the game in Liverpool's favor as the Colombia winger shifted his team's approach from submission to aggressive ambition. Diaz arrived at Villarreal, slowing the pace in the first half and allowing Liverpool to take control of the game. When Villarreal keeper Geronimo Rulli bailed out Klopp's side with a series of costly mistakes, Diaz had changed the tide and made it an inevitability that Liverpool would reach a third Champions League final in five seasons. - Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (US only) "Luis (Diaz) had a massive impact - Diogo Jota wasn't the problem in the first half, we had 11 problems. I wanted the players to be mentality monsters from the first minute , but Villarreal took all risks in the first half and we had a football problem to solve. "We've reached a final but three of the competitions aren't over yet. The final is on our schedule and we need to be prepared for it, but it will be difficult but sure at half-time in Villarreal's tiny stadium. Liverpool completed the so-called 'Miracle of Istanbul' by defeating AC Milan from a 3-0 deficit fought back and won the 2005 Champions League final, and a 3-0 first leg came from behind with a 4-0 win at Anfield over Barcelona in the 2019 semifinals, allowing for a second-half comeback against the Europa League Last season's winner still has some work to do to build on his earlier epic nights of glory. But that win and performance will go down in Liverpool folklore because it demonstrated qualities that are often overlooked given the world-class quality of Klopp's team. To achieve greatness, any athlete or team must overcome adversity in their path, and this has undoubtedly been a test of Leber Pool's determination and fighting spirit. Liverpool rocked poorly in the first half. Villarreal manager Unai Emery had sent his team out with a game plan to relentlessly press Liverpool and put pressure on the defence. In midfield, Etienne Capoue (who received a second booking in the 85th minute), Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin played superbly while Lo Celso found space to punch holes in Liverpool's defence. Up front, Gerard Moreno and Dia tormented Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate. Dia's third-minute opener after Capoue's break gave Emery's team the belief that they could harm Liverpool and they dominated the game, with Coquelin making it 2-0 in the 41st minute. It led to Klopp's arguably most important half of the season and he got on the front foot by introducing Diaz, who has been a sensation since signing from Porto in January for £50m. With Diaz firing down the left flank, Liverpool gained possession and created chances and they reclaimed the overall lead in the tie Fabinho fired through Rulli's legs in the 62nd minute. Five minutes later, Diaz headed an Alexander-Arnold cross to make it 2-2 on the night and 4-2 on aggregate before Sadio Mane scored the goal in the 74th minute after Rulli was eliminated from his area and missed the ball badly. Having been on course to be knocked out, Liverpool had turned the tie within half an hour and that was simply down to the manager's audacity and the team's ability to shift into higher gear - the best teams can do that so quickly and with such things devastating effect - and Liverpool are in that bracket. But also Manchester City and Real Madrid, who meet in Madrid on Wednesday to decide who will face Liverpool on May 28. Real have had their unforgettable battles against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea this season, but City have yet to be tested that way. But if it comes to the Liverpool duel against City in Paris, the mentality of Klopp and his players will not be a question mark - and the opponent will know that too. That's why that victory in Villarreal was so important. It sent a message to the rest that Liverpool never know when they're beaten and that could result in them winning four trophies this season. No English side have ever won the quadruple - the FA Cup, Carabao Cup, UEFA Champions League and English Premier League - in one season, but Liverpool took a convincing step closer.

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Liverpool keeps hopes alive

Liverpool's quadruple hope hung at half-time against Villarreal but they found a way to reach the Champions League final. (Author: Gardener)

LiverpoolFor 45 minutes on Tuesday, Liverpool's hopes of reaching the Champions League final looked seriously threatened. Liverpool seemed in control of the tie after a comfortable 2-0 win at Anfield last week, but the Spanish side squandered that lead by half-time. The score was 2-2 on the hour, but Fabinho, half-time substitute Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane scored to send Liverpool to Paris – where they will play either Real Madrid or Manchester City. * Liverpool are the first English club to reach the final of the European Cup/Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup in the same season. * The Reds will play in every game available to them this season - they will win the Carabao Cup and reach the FA Cup final (where they play Chelsea) and the Champions League final. * You can still become the first English team to win a quadruple from Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup. Klopp revealed after the game that he had asked Peter Krawietz at half-time to show a clip of something his players did well in the first half so they could repeat that in the second half - but the assistant manager was able to find none. They were 2-0 down with goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin and had not scored themselves. "The problem at half-time was we knew what was wrong because it was obvious, but we didn't have a situation where we could show where we got it right," said Klopp. "So it was a big half, but it was about how the lads reacted. "We didn't play any football at all. We scored goals and made it. "What I was saying was football, where we had to play, where we had to move, where we had to be brave, change swing, go behind and in between. "After three minutes [of the first half] our minds weren't in it Order. You have to push your own football through and we managed that in the second half." The Reds had just three touches in the Villarreal penalty area and completed 36.2% of their passes in the last third of the first half, just a week after a performance So dominant at Anfield that Villarreal's approach was described as "pathetic" by one radio pundit. In Klopp's team chat at half-time, Reds defender Virgil van Dijk told BT Sport: "He told us to play football like we do in Liverpool all seasons. "They're playing a high line so we had to mix it up a bit with the speed we have. We also had to show how badly we wanted to get to the final. We dominated in the second half." Right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold added: “We regrouped at half-time with the game on our backs. "We never played football in that first half and didn't pick up second balls. They played the game they wanted and we allowed them to do that. We controlled the game better in the second half.” Diaz's substitution at half-time was an important turning point. The Colombian striker, who replaced Diogo Jota, scored the Reds' equalizer that night - the goal that pretty much ended the tie. In 45 minutes he had more shots - four - than anyone else in the entire game. His 90% passing accuracy was better than any other Reds player apart from late substitute James Milner. We talk about players needing time to fall asleep but he settled in straight away." The £37.5m January signing has scored five goals since joining from Porto. Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand said on BT Sport: "Diaz made the difference. He's a fabulous player and one of the - if not the - signings of the season for me." now just six games away from an unprecedented England foursome - although they are a point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City with four games remaining and need their rivals to slip away. Only Celtic have ever had a European Cup in a season, in 1966/67, won a league title, a cup and a league cup - although most countries don't have two domestic cups and since Mohamed Salah joined Liverpool in 2017, they have won three trophies - the 2018-19 Champions League, the 2019-20 Premier League and this year's Carabao Cup. They had only won three trophies in the 13 years prior to his arrival. The Egyptian, who is the Reds' top scorer this season with 30 goals, said: “We fight for everything. We win a trophy, now we're in another final, we're still fighting in the Premier League. I'm always honest and focused in the Champions League and Premier League. After we beat City in the FA Cup semi-finals [I thought it was on.] "After the group stage I was like, 'Okay, we're going to win the Champions League this year'. "I want to play [in the final] against Madrid . City are a really strong side." Klopp added: "It's really difficult to reach three finals so probably nobody has done it before. If the finals show up on the schedule we'll make sure we're ready for that, but we're playing against incredibly strong teams in those finals, so we'll try, but it's difficult."

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Luis Diaz's momentum, Jurgen Klopp's courage keep Liverpool's quadruple in play

After Liverpool went down to Villarreal in the Champions League semifinals, Liverpool switched into high gear as only they can. (Author: Gardener)

LiverpoolAlthough they can now prepare for a 10th Champions League final later this month, against either Manchester City or Real Madrid in Paris, the club's incredible resilience in European competition needed to be proven once again on Tuesday to clinch a 3rd place 2-1 win over Villarreal at the Estadio to seal de la Ceramica. Jurgen Klopp's side were so poor in the first half - passed, passed and passed by their Spanish opponents - that goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin gave Villarreal a 2-0 lead that nullified Liverpool's two-goal advantage from the first leg last week. Liverpool's three touches in Villarreal's penalty area before half-time were the lowest in a first half of the entire season in all competitions. Had referee Danny Makkelie awarded the home side a penalty in the 37th minute - four minutes before Coquelin's headed goal - after goalkeeper Alisson Becker appeared to have brought down Giovani Lo Celso, Liverpool could have been 3-0 down at half-time, theirs Season threatens to implode before a blizzard of 23,000 yellow flags. But Klopp's decision to replace Diogo Jota with Luis Diaz at the break turned the game in Liverpool's favor as the Colombia winger shifted his team's approach from submission to aggressive ambition. Diaz arrived at Villarreal, slowing the pace in the first half and allowing Liverpool to take control of the game. When Villarreal keeper Geronimo Rulli bailed out Klopp's side with a series of costly mistakes, Diaz had changed the tide and made it an inevitability that Liverpool would reach a third Champions League final in five seasons. "Luis (Diaz) had a massive impact - Diogo Jota wasn't the problem in the first half, we had 11 problems. I wanted the players to be mentality monsters from the first minute, but Villarreal risked everything in the first minute ." Half-time and we had a football problem to solve. While the record books will show Liverpool making it to Paris with a 5-2 aggregate win, reaching the final at half-time in Villarreal's tiny stadium was far from certain. Liverpool did it - dubbed the "Miracle of Istanbul" - by beating AC Milan from a 3-0 deficit to win the 2005 Champions League final and coming from a 3-0 deficit in the 2019 semifinals quashed the first leg with a 4-0 win at Anfield over Barcelona , leaving a second-half comeback against last season's Europa League winners with some way to continue their epic early days. But that win and performance will go down in Liverpool folklore because it provided evidence of qualities that are often overlooked because of the world-class quality of Klopp's team. To achieve greatness, any athlete or team must overcome adversity in their path and this was undoubtedly a test of Liverpool's resolve and fighting spirit. Liverpool rocked poorly in the first half. Villarreal manager Unai Emery had sent his team out with a game plan to relentlessly press Liverpool and put pressure on the defence. In midfield, Etienne Capoue (who received a second booking in the 85th minute), Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin played superbly while Lo Celso found space to punch holes in Liverpool's defence. Villarreal also benefited from gaps on Liverpool's right flank, where both Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold failed to perform their defensive duties. Dia's opening goal in the third minute after Capoue was sent off gave Emery's team the belief that they could hurt Liverpool and they dominated the game, with Coquelin making it 2-0 in the 41st minute. It led to Klopp's arguably most important half of the season and he got on the front foot by introducing Diaz, who has been a sensation since signing £50million from Porto in January. With Diaz on the left, Liverpool began to gain possession and create chances and they reclaimed the lead in the standings when Fabinho fired through Rulli's legs in the 62nd minute. Five minutes later, Diaz headed an Alexander Arnold cross to make it 2-2 on the night and 4-2 on aggregate before Sadio Mane completed the goal in the 74th minute after Rulli rushed out of his box and mishandled the ball had missed. Headed for elimination, Liverpool had turned the tie within half an hour and that was simply down to the manager's audacity and the team's ability to shift into higher gear. Only the best teams can do it so quickly and with such devastating effect - and Liverpool are in that class. But also Manchester City and Real Madrid, who meet in Madrid on Wednesday to decide who will face Liverpool on May 28. Real have had their unforgettable battles against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea this season, but City have yet to be tested that way. But if there is a duel between Liverpool and City in Paris, the mentality of Klopp and his players will be unquestionable - and the opponent will know that too. It sent a message to the rest that Liverpool never know when they will be beaten and that they could win four trophies this season because of it. No English team has ever won the quadruple - the FA Cup, Carabao Cup, UEFA Champions League and English Premier League - in one season, but Liverpool have come a step closer in convincing fashion.

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Luis Diaz's momentum, Jurgen Klopp's courage keep Liverpool's quadruple in play

After Liverpool went down to Villarreal in the Champions League semifinals, Liverpool switched into high gear as only they can. (Author: Gardener)

LiverpoolAlthough they can now prepare for a 10th Champions League final later this month, against either Manchester City or Real Madrid in Paris, the club's incredible resilience in European competition needed to be proven once again on Tuesday to clinch a 3rd place 2-1 win over Villarreal at the Estadio to seal de la Ceramica. Jurgen Klopp's side were so poor in the first half - passed, passed and passed by their Spanish opponents - that goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin gave Villarreal a 2-0 lead that nullified Liverpool's two-goal advantage from the first leg last week. Liverpool's three touches in Villarreal's penalty area before half-time were the lowest in a first half of the entire season in all competitions. Had referee Danny Makkelie awarded the home side a penalty in the 37th minute - four minutes before Coquelin's headed goal - after goalkeeper Alisson Becker appeared to have brought down Giovani Lo Celso, Liverpool could have been 3-0 down at half-time, theirs Season threatens to implode before a blizzard of 23,000 yellow flags. But Klopp's decision to replace Diogo Jota with Luis Diaz at the break turned the game in Liverpool's favor as the Colombia winger shifted his team's approach from submission to aggressive ambition. Diaz arrived at Villarreal, slowing the pace in the first half and allowing Liverpool to take control of the game. When Villarreal keeper Geronimo Rulli bailed out Klopp's side with a series of costly mistakes, Diaz had changed the tide and made it an inevitability that Liverpool would reach a third Champions League final in five seasons. "Luis (Diaz) had a massive impact - Diogo Jota wasn't the problem in the first half, we had 11 problems. I wanted the players to be mentality monsters from the first minute, but Villarreal risked everything in the first minute ." Half-time and we had a football problem to solve. While the record books will show Liverpool making it to Paris with a 5-2 aggregate win, reaching the final at half-time in Villarreal's tiny stadium was far from certain. Liverpool did it - dubbed the "Miracle of Istanbul" - by beating AC Milan from a 3-0 deficit to win the 2005 Champions League final and coming from a 3-0 deficit in the 2019 semifinals quashed the first leg with a 4-0 win at Anfield over Barcelona , leaving a second-half comeback against last season's Europa League winners with some way to continue their epic early days. But that win and performance will go down in Liverpool folklore because it provided evidence of qualities that are often overlooked because of the world-class quality of Klopp's team. To achieve greatness, any athlete or team must overcome adversity in their path and this was undoubtedly a test of Liverpool's resolve and fighting spirit. Liverpool rocked poorly in the first half. Villarreal manager Unai Emery had sent his team out with a game plan to relentlessly press Liverpool and put pressure on the defence. In midfield, Etienne Capoue (who received a second booking in the 85th minute), Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin played superbly while Lo Celso found space to punch holes in Liverpool's defence. Villarreal also benefited from gaps on Liverpool's right flank, where both Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold failed to perform their defensive duties. Dia's opening goal in the third minute after Capoue was sent off gave Emery's team the belief that they could hurt Liverpool and they dominated the game, with Coquelin making it 2-0 in the 41st minute. It led to Klopp's arguably most important half of the season and he got on the front foot by introducing Diaz, who has been a sensation since signing £50million from Porto in January. With Diaz on the left, Liverpool began to gain possession and create chances and they reclaimed the lead in the standings when Fabinho fired through Rulli's legs in the 62nd minute. Five minutes later, Diaz headed an Alexander Arnold cross to make it 2-2 on the night and 4-2 on aggregate before Sadio Mane completed the goal in the 74th minute after Rulli rushed out of his box and mishandled the ball had missed. Headed for elimination, Liverpool had turned the tie within half an hour and that was simply down to the manager's audacity and the team's ability to shift into higher gear. Only the best teams can do it so quickly and with such devastating effect - and Liverpool are in that class. But also Manchester City and Real Madrid, who meet in Madrid on Wednesday to decide who will face Liverpool on May 28. Real have had their unforgettable battles against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea this season, but City have yet to be tested that way. But if there is a duel between Liverpool and City in Paris, the mentality of Klopp and his players will be unquestionable - and the opponent will know that too. It sent a message to the rest that Liverpool never know when they will be beaten and that they could win four trophies this season because of it. No English team has ever won the quadruple - the FA Cup, Carabao Cup, UEFA Champions League and English Premier League - in one season, but Liverpool have come a step closer in convincing fashion.

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Liverpool advance to Champions League final after being rocked by Villarreal

Liverpool's quest for an unprecedented quadruple remains intact after the Reds overcame a major scare against Villarreal with a spectacular second-half comeback in Tuesday's Champions League semi-finals. (Author: Gardener)

Champions LeagueLiverpool's quest for an unprecedented quadruple remains intact after the Reds overcame a major scare against Villarreal with a spectacular second-half comeback in Tuesday's Champions League semi-finals. Three goals in quick succession from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane helped Liverpool to a 3-2 win (5-2 on aggregate) and a third Champions League final in just five years, although the result was - quite literally – only half the story was meaningful. Despite arriving at the Estadio de la Cerámica with a commanding two-goal advantage, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had warned his side "must be prepared to suffer" and the German's words proved prophetic as Villarreal entertained the visitors stunned with a wild first. half display. Early goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin sent the 'Yellow Submarine' - affectionately nicknamed for their bright yellow jersey - into uncharted waters and threatened to dashed Liverpool's hopes of becoming the first team to win the Champions League, Premier League, FA make cup and league cup in same campaign. Buoyed by the impact of second-half substitute Diaz, a flurry of goals during a scintillating 12-minute period put the ship back on track and stamped Liverpool's ticket to the final on May 28 in Paris with that goal in the Champions League semi-finals , second leg against Villarreal. With the League Cup already on the bench, should Liverpool win the Premier League and FA Cup, triumphing over Real Madrid or Manchester City in France would seal a historic feat and elevate the status of Klopp's already-heralded squad football immortality. Salah argues with Capoue during the game. After the game, Klopp and Alexander-Arnold spoke about who they wanted to face in the final, telling BT Sport that anyone who made it to Paris deserved to be there. The Egyptian, who was agonizingly substituted with an injury in Liverpool's 3-1 defeat by Real Madrid in Kyiv in 2018, still has work to do. "I want to play against Madrid [in the final]," said Salah. "I have to be honest, City are a really strong side, we've played them a couple of times this season, but if you ask me personally, I'd prefer Madrid. Because we lost to them in the final, I want to play against them again they play." – hopefully we win,” he added with a laugh. Salah was similarly open chasing a historic quadruple. I'm always honest and focused on the Champions League and the Premier League. “After we beat City in the FA Cup semi-finals [I thought it was up]. After the group stage I thought: 'Okay, we'll win the Champions League this year'.” Having led Borussia Dortmund to the final in 2013, two years before he switched to the Reds, Klopp now joins an illustrious circle of managers a has reached four Champions League finals - Marcello Lippi, Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlo Ancelotti, who is now Real Madrid manager on a new two-year deal last week - has already achieved iconic status at Anfield. Villarreal manager Unai Emery had previously Spiel notes his team must play "a perfect game" to progress and his players responded with a near-perfect 45 minutes After being criticized for an overly defensive approach in the first leg at Anfield, Villarreal was within three minutes in front, with Dia bringing home a deft Etienne Capoue retreat after the midfielder dropped behind Andy Robert g eschlichen had son at the back post. Although the atmosphere at the Estadio de la Cerámica had been sizzling before kick-off, that early goal brought the crowd noise to boiling point and the home side adapted to the intensity. These yellow Villarreal jerseys rushed forward, provoking a series of uncharacteristic unforced errors and sloppy passing from a Liverpool side that have seemed all but unshakable this season. Capoue became the assist again to bring Villarreal level five minutes before the break. Their heightened urgency was rewarded when Fabinho, collecting Salah's pass, shot through the legs of Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli to score a timely first Champions League goal for Liverpool and restore the visitors' lead. The tie was over within 10 minutes. Diaz's electric shock was rewarded with a goal as the Colombian nodded home an Alexander-Arnold cross before Mane rounded Rulli and tapped home to put the game in the clear. Villarreal's frustration was epitomized by a late red card for Capoue but when the dust settles the Spanish side can look back on an incredible European journey. Seventh in La Liga and 29 points behind champions Real Madrid, a fairytale run in the Champions League saw them en route to the first semi-final against European giants Juventus and Bayern Munich – not bad for a city of under 60,000. But the evening belonged to Liverpool and the mad red section of the Estadio de la Cerámica, who can now begin planning another European Cup final - a night that has the potential to be the most special in the club's history. Coquelin nods home to level the tie at 2-2.

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I want to play against Real Madrid in the final

With memories of the 2018 final still fresh, Mohamed Salah suggested he take revenge on Real Madrid in this year's Champions League final. (Author: Gardener)

Real MadridMohamed Salah has no doubts about who Liverpool should face in the Champions League final. After Liverpool snagged their spot at the flagship event at the Stade de France later that month, the Egyptian star didn't have to think twice when asked if he'd rather play Manchester City or Real Madrid. City lead 4-3 against Madrid ahead of Wednesday's semi-final second leg in the Spanish capital. "I want to play against Madrid," he told BT Sport after Liverpool sealed a 5-2 aggregate semi-final win over Villarreal in Spain on Tuesday. City are a really strong team, we've played them a couple of times this season. But if you ask me personally, I'd prefer Madrid." - Ogden: Diaz's drive, Klopp's audacity keeps Liverpool's quadruple in play As Liverpool face Manchester City again for the Premier League title, Salah has a very personal story with Madrid on the biggest stage Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1 in the 2018 Champions League final after Salah was substituted in the first half with a shoulder injury after being dragged to the ground by then-Madrid captain Sergio Ramos. "We lost in the final so I want to play against them and hopefully win it from them too," added Salah.Liverpool, who remain on course to a unique quadruple win this season, now have three champions in the last five seasons -League finals reached After losing to Madrid in 2018, he bounced back and won the trophy the following season, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said below Meanwhile, reaching your fourth Champions League final as a manager in 20 [years] almost feels like a new experience," Klopp, who guided Borussia Dortmund to the final of the competition in 2013, told BT Sport. Liverpool, who led 2-0 in the first leg in England last week, were rocked by two goals from Spain in the first half before three second-half goals ensured progress. Klopp's side were shocked by Villarreal's aggressive man-marking in the first half, which took them out of their own pressing game, and the manager admitted he struggled to find highlights from the first 45 minutes to show his players. "We knew what was wrong because it was obvious, but we didn't have a situation to show them where we got it right," said Klopp. The substitution of Colombia winger Luis Diaz at the break seemed to liven up Liverpool's attack as Fabinho, Diaz and Sadio Mane scored the goals that propelled them through to the final. "Of course Luis, what kind of player he is, but it's not about who came on, it's about how we started playing," said Klopp. Unlike Salah, the 54-year-old coach said he had no preference over who his team would face in the final on May 28, saying: "Whoever it's going to be, it's going to be massive." For his counterpart Unai Emery, it was the end of an epic Champions League season for Villarreal, who beat Juventus and Bayern Munich en route to the semi-finals. but the difference in two games, first leg and second leg, was their excellence," the Spaniard told BT Sport.

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Liverpool sweat and then celebrate their return to the Champions League final

Losing a two-goal lead was uncharacteristic of Jurgen Klopp's side, but a dominant second half at Villarreal secures a place in Paris. (Author: Gardener)

the Champions LeagueLiverpool have reached their third Champions League final in five years, but in the second leg it was a little more stressful than it first appeared. What was to be a procession after winning 2-0 in the first leg briefly threatened to become one of the most unexpected comebacks in European history as Villarreal took a 2-0 lead at half-time, but a much-improved performance from Liverpool made the second Half yielded a 3-2 win on the night for a 5-2 aggregate win. Jurgen Klopp will justifiably be credited with inspiring the comeback and it's to Liverpool's credit that after being so sloppy they've had the strength to regain their form, but few opposing goalkeepers will be as accommodating as Villarreal Gerónimo Rulli with the support of the visitors. “Villarreal started incredibly well, of course, and to be honest we couldn't get our foot in the game and that's why we suddenly found ourselves under pressure, couldn't play football in the first half, had to react in the second, he managed, turned it around and made it a really special night.” The fear for Liverpool last week was that after dominating the first leg so utterly they had only won 2-0. A third goal would have made the draw pointless, but a two-goal deficit left the chance for a comeback open. But it still seemed an extremely small chance and that perhaps gave Liverpool a false sense of security. After all, how could a side who were less than an hour behind overall this year consider losing to the seventh LaLiga club in the absence of Arnaut Danjuma, their most dangerous player who has been such a fan in the knockout stages? .-round was? Liverpool were lax from the start, perhaps thinking about the weekend game against Tottenham. After all, every Premier League game until the end of the season is effectively a final given the head-to-head nature of the tussle with Manchester City. A cross had already flown dangerously over the box when Pervis Estupiñán crossed to the far post in the third minute and Etienne Capoue, avoiding Andy Robertson, deflected the cross back over the goal. It was well constructed and well executed, but it was puzzling that Estupiñán had been given so much space to measure the cross. Suddenly Liverpool's passing and pressing were off while Villarreal held the ball far better than last week. Naby Keïta, who scored Liverpool's only goal against Newcastle at the weekend, had a nightmare in the first half, his passing and decision-making both lopsided. It was his failure to break out against Estupiñán that had led to the opening goal and his wrong pass that saw Giovanni Lo Celso draw Alisson one-on-one after 38 minutes. Before half-time, however, Villarreal equalized overall, with Capoue Robertson getting away far too easily and making a move to the back post, where Francis Coquelin landed in front of Trent Alexander-Arnold to head in – amazingly, Villarreal's seventh consecutive change on goal in the competition. Both of Tuesday's goals resulted from mistakes by both full-backs, suggesting a plan to exploit the defensive vulnerability of two players used to playing on the front foot. But the malaise ran deeper: Keïta's pass completion in the first half was 65%, Fabinho's 68% and Thiago's 73%. Unusually, Liverpool just couldn't keep the ball. Given how consistent, how ruthless Liverpool had seemed this season, it was a huge surprise to see Liverpool so upset and out of step. Luis Díaz came on for Diogo Jota at half-time and, more generally, Liverpool equalized - although there were suspicions that Villarreal had withdrawn after the equalizer to try and keep Liverpool at bay. Alexander-Arnold had already deflected an attempt at the crossbar when Mohamed Salah poked a free pass at Fabinho on the right in the penalty area. He had time to think about a cross but ended up drilling a shot straight at Rulli. The keeper had looked shaky in the first leg and was heavily to blame when the ball went straight through him. Díaz, who had made a big difference, deflected a shot off the outside of the post but then hit the second, who headed in from an Alexander-Arnold left cross after 67 minutes. Rulli might have done better too, although it was third in the final 12-minute stretch that he was most to blame for. "The good thing about a bad first half is that you can easily improve on it because it was so bad," said Klopp. “It was clear what we had to change. We had to find solutions because they risked everything in their man-to-man defense that the others left – the half-spaces on the other side were completely open. It was clear. When we find those moments where we can really switch or pass the ball through the half-spaces, that's when they lose momentum. As Villarreal lost discipline, Capoue conceded a second yellow card and was sent off in the 85th minute. Liverpool are in their third season finale after overcoming a surprising wobble.

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Liverpool reach the Champions League final the hard way, surviving the early horrors at Villarreal and winning the second leg

The Reds came back two goals down and won the second leg and the semifinals (Author: Gardener)

LiverpoolLiverpool's Champions League dreams seemed to turn into a nightmare at half-time. But when the final whistle was blown by chief referee Danny Makkelie, the dream of continental dominance was still alive for Jurgen Klopp's side thanks to the likes of Fabinho, Luis Díaz and Sadio Mané, as the Reds booked a trip to the UCL final in Paris on Tuesday. After squandering a 2-0 aggregate lead at Villarreal in the first half of the second leg, the Reds exploded for three second-half goals to secure a 3-2 away win and their third UCL final in five seasons to reach. Fabinho, Díaz and Mané each scored within 12 minutes to turn the tide and stunned the 21,872 fans at the rain-soaked Estadio de la Ceramica after their side had Liverpool in hot pursuit with an exceptional first 45 minutes. A goal from Boulaye Dia in the third minute and a header from Francis Coquelin in the 41st minute made the Spanish club think they could pull it off, but in the end they couldn't produce enough on either side of the pitch. Fabinho couldn't have picked a better time to score his first UCL goal for the Reds in the 62nd minute, giving them a 3-2 lead on aggregate. Five minutes after that low strike trickled past Geronimo Rulli, Díaz headed in a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross to end Cinderella's time on the ball. Mané cemented the win with a skillful solo finish 16 minutes from time. A common theme across all three Liverpool goals was poor execution from goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli and his defenders. Liverpool are now waiting in the final for Manchester City or Real Madrid, who will play their semi-final second leg on Wednesday. Here's what you should know about the game: You may remember Villarreal's quarter-final first leg against Bayern Munich, where it took the Yellow Submarine just eight minutes to score the opening goal through Arnaut Danjuma. Without the injured Dutchman that night, Villarreal needed just three minutes to take the lead. Dia, a 25-year-old French forward in his first season at the club, scored that opener to put his side back in the draw and give them all the momentum, capitalizing on a poor first half from the Liverpool defence: that was it it also Dia's first UCL career goal. They just needed to score the first goal and they did, starting with an impressive first 45 minutes for the underdogs. With the tie hanging in the balance, the next goal would either end Villarreal's chances or greatly improve them. The former Arsenal man raised from a cross and brilliantly headed past Alisson to make it 2-2 just before the break. But just look at Alexander-Arnold, who didn't even jump to defend the header: Totally inexplicable from the England defender and he knows it. At the beginning of the second half, the match could have ended either way. But the introduction of Díaz made Liverpool look much more in sync in the attacking third and that improved possession allowed more players to get up front. That's where Fabinho came in, slipping into the box and scoring a lucky goal that Rulli probably should have stopped: things went downhill from there for the Argentinian keeper and he ended the evening knowing he could have done much better can concede all three goals. It didn't take long for the full-back to fully recover, delivering a perfect cross to Díaz to make it 2-2. Alexander-Arnold finished with two chances created and a shot deflected off Coquelin and hitting the bar. found the Colombian back post with an unmistakable ball in goal to give his team the breathing space they needed: Díaz brought the spark in that second half, but Alexander-Arnold managed to deliver the goods when needed and played just at the right time timing to keep the attacker on the ball. The game was then opened and had to be watched by Villarreal. And from there it would always be Liverpool. With Villarreal visibly at a loss and desperate, it was another Rulli blunder that allowed the Senegalese superstar to thwart him. Mané was passed through, taking a touch past the misplaced goalkeeper and his defender and making it look easy the rest of the way. But Klopp brought in Díaz, got his team to stick to the plan and they managed to settle in. With 55 per cent possession, almost 20 per cent less than in the first leg, they needed to be a little more efficient and they were. It took longer than they wanted, but it came. They never gave up, persevered and put on their scorer shoes at half-time. As a result, they could be just 90 minutes away from their seventh UCL crown. It never seemed likely they would pull it off, especially after what they did to Bayern, but boy did they do their best. For decades to come, Villarreal fans will be able to tell the story of 2021 and 2022. From winning their first European trophy last year in the Europa League to their second and most surprising UCL semi-final appearance, they have shown that La Liga is not on the brink of collapse but is fueling its revival. Manchester City and Real Madrid play their second leg on Wednesday and the winner of that draw meets Liverpool on May 28 at 3pm. ET at the Stade de France. You can watch all remaining UCL games on CBS and Paramount+.

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Ronaldo stays at Manchester United

Ronaldo produced an outstanding performance against Brentford on Monday night, scoring his 24th goal of the season. On a lap of honor at United's last home game of the season, he appeared to mouth 'I'm not done' to fans, but then waved as he walked down the tunnel. (Author: Gardener)

RonaldoRALF Rangnick has urged Manchester United to sign two forwards this summer but advised new manager Erik ten Hag to keep Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo produced an outstanding performance against Brentford on Monday night, scoring his 24th goal of the season. On a lap of honor at United's last home game of the season, he appeared to mouth 'I'm not done' to fans, but then waved as he walked down the tunnel. Rangnick believes United will need to step up their attack when new boss Ten Hag arrives from Ajax this summer but thinks Ronaldo, 37, should let the second year of his contract expire. "The way we played again tonight, not just because he scored but also won the penalty and helped defensively, why shouldn't he be part of the squad and help the team?" said Rangnick. "But that's a question to ask Erik and also Cristiano. He doesn't want to play that position, but if you look at international football, there aren't many teams that play with two forwards. "For me it's a question of what players Manchester United will have in the future. It's obvious United need two more quality strikers. Liverpool or Manchester City have five or six top-class strikers. If you ask me if Gabriel Jesus or Jack Grealish is a winger or a forward, they can all play there. "Mason Greenwood would have been one, then he wasn't part of the squad after the West Ham game. Rangnick officiated his last home game before handing over to Hag. He will slip into an advisory role at Old Trafford and also act as Austria coach. He did, however, support United to get promoted again under Hag, adding: "It's obvious that some players are going to leave the club so there's a need for new players, quality players and I really believe that if we all work together on this process , we can raise the level and put Manchester United back in spaces and areas where they should be.” – Dailymail

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