LIVERPOOL, UK, April 28 – Jurgen Klopp has warned Liverpool must remain ‘on alert’ despite setting foot in the Champions League final with a dominating 2-0 win over Villarreal in the first leg of their semi-final at Anfield on Wednesday .
Two goals in two minutes undid Villarreal boss Unai Emery’s defensive game plan as Pervis Estupinan deflected Jordan Henderson’s cross into his own net before Sadio Mane netted a second.
The Reds remain on course for an unprecedented Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup treble.
And barring a huge upheaval when the teams meet in southern Spain in six days, Liverpool’s season will end with a third Champions League final in five seasons in Paris on May 28.
“It’s 2-0 at half-time,” Liverpool boss Klopp said. “You have to be fully alert, 100 per cent at the right time and play the second half like we played the first. We know it will be a tricky atmosphere for us.
In stark contrast to the flowing thrills of Manchester City’s 4-3 win over Real Madrid in the other semi-final on Tuesday, Emery’s men followed the same tactic that saw them overtake Juventus and Bayern Munich retreating behind the ball.
However, the Yellow Submarine could barely put a glove on Klopp’s men as Liverpool only had to bide their time for their dominance to count.
“The 2-0 is a clear and deserved result,” Emery said. “It could have been even worse, but we still have a chance.
“I want to show that we are capable of playing a different game at home.”
The Reds have now scored 135 goals this season but were held scoreless in a frustrating opening 45 minutes.
Mane headed Mohamed Salah’s precise cross with the best opening.
The Senegalese also saw a deflected effort fly just wide and Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli escaped unpunished with a sloppy handling of a number of speculative efforts.
Another long-range strike was Liverpool’s closest to breaking the deadlock before the break as Thiago Alcantara’s soft strike clipped the post.
The six-time European champions entered the second half at a faster pace and soon began to punch holes in Villarreal’s rear.
Fabinho’s goal was ruled out for offside against Virgil van Dijk in the build-up.
Moments later, Anfield erupted as the error-prone Rulli finally cost the Spaniards with a weak attempt to parry Henderson’s deflected cross.
The last thing the visitors could afford was the floodgates opening, but they were powerless to stop Liverpool’s waves of attacks.
Salah was the architect with a perfectly weighted pass to put Mane past Rulli on 55 minutes.
The offside flag once again came to Villarreal’s rescue to clear Andy Robertson’s strike.
Emery has been hailed as the ‘king of cups’ by Klopp for his superb Europa League record, with one of his four triumphs in this competition as Sevilla boss over the German in his first season at Liverpool in 2016.
However, Liverpool are a different beast six years on and the limitations of a side who sit seventh in La Liga have been revealed as they struggle to organize any kind of response to their backlog.
Luis Diaz smashed the face of goal as Liverpool threatened to kill the draw with a third.
The English giants have had to settle for a two-goal advantage but have yet to lose by a two-goal margin in 55 appearances this season.