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Villarreal 1, Liverpool 0: First Thoughts

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Villarreal 1: Adrian
Liverpool 0:

  • Pre-game Thoughts: Pre-game jitters to go with pre-game thoughts? Yup. Roberto Firmino gets the surprise start over the in-form Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge has been putting on the miles as of late, so I can understand wanting to keep him fresh. Also, he's a hell of a weapon to bring off the bench. Looks like Liverpool will be coming out with a 4-3-3, which has produced some very good results away from Anfield this season. Tonight would be another good time for a similar result! Also, big fan of any pre-game tradition that includes The Beatles, even if they're singing the wrong lyrics to "Team of Carraghers." 

  • First three minutes and Mignolet has already been involved twice. Villarreal are going to be tough to handle on the counter, and the Reds will  have to do better if they want to get out of Spain alive. 

  • Wee Joe with the first shot of the contest. Directly at the keeper, of course, but at least it was on target! 

  • In the early stages Liverpool are really struggling to play the ball out of their own half, and as a result are having to absorb more pressure than they would like. Or rather, more pressure than I would like. 

  • Soldado fires his first chance just wide of the far post. Some very nervy moments in the early going for the Reds. 

  • Lucas, man, I love you. Really, I do. Taking 25-yard shots when we're up 4-0 against Everton? Totes adorable. Taking 25-yard shots now? Not so much. 

  • Fifteen minutes gone and Liverpool have finally found a foothold in the game with a good spell of possession and a couple of half-decent moments of build-up in the attacking third. 

  • Last ditch defending from the Reds! A dangerous sequence ends with a Mignolet save and a couple blocked shots from the defense. Still knotted at zeroes, thankfully. 

  • Another big block, this time by Alberto Moreno who makes a quick recovery after a slip in the box to deflect the shot behind for a corner. 

  • Coutinho skies a rare left-footed effort from outside the box. The build up to the strike was decent, but that's probably not the best decision with options ahead of him. 

  • Soldado goes close again, this time bending a shot just around the post. 

  • Halftime: Liverpool are definitely missing a target man up top. Firmino, Coutinho, and Lallana haven't linked up as well as we've seen in the past, and there have been a few crosses that are just dying for a proper center forward to attack. That said, the sides were pretty evenly matched this half, with Liverpool having the best chance and Villarreal creating the most chances. If anyone was worried about Toure coming in, there is no need to worry. Kolo has made several key interventions, and not looked out of place at all. 

  • Jordon Ibe on for...PHILLIPE COUTINHO?! Um...bold strategy, Jürgen. 

  • And BIG trouble early. Liverpool concede a very early corner, and then fail to mark Bakambu who gets a free header and mercifully bangs it off the post and out. 

  • Liverpool seem to be at a loss for ideas in the attacking third. There are lots of passes around the perimeter of the box, but not enough running in behind. 

  • Someone needs to explain to Alexi Lalas that there are no "points" for winning or drawing matches in knock-out rounds. 

  • Costa manages to run full-steam into Lovren's elbow. 

  • Firmino finally gets involved in the attack, hitting a low, driving shot that was bound for the near corner, but Asenjo palms it onto the post. More of that, please. 

  • Twenty minutes to play and the game is still scoreless. Aside from a big chance on either side, the match has been pretty cagey and you get the feeling this is going to end 0-0. 

  • Lallana called offside in a very tight call on a ball over the top. The English international would have been 1v1 with the keeper had the play been allowed to continue. Good idea, but a bit unlucky by the looks of it. 

  • Surprising that Klopp made a second sub as the clock approaches 80 minutes. 

  • The microphones picked up Kloppo yelling "Ibe-y! Think!" After Ibe was called offside. Priceless. 

  • HUGE save by Mignolet. Villarreal create a chance out of nothing, and Mignolet has to make a snap reaction save

  • Moreno has a HUGE chance of his own at the other end, but can't put his 1v1 chance on target.

  • It's end-to-end as we approach 90 minutes. Just when it looked like both sides were resigned to a draw, the teams come to life. 

  • Benteke comes on for Firmino. Come on Christian, be a hero! 

  • ***GOAL*** Disaster. A great defensive effort is undone a minute into stoppage time. Brilliant counter attack and Liverpool defenders can't get back to defend

  • Full Time: Liverpool nearly escape with a draw, but they'll need another special Anfield Night to advance to the final. 

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We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.