Rio Ferdinand wonders whether it was a “conscious decision from Unai Emery” as Villarreal changed their approach in the second half against Liverpool on Tuesday night.
The Spanish outfit had the Reds on the ropes at half-time with Emery’s men heading into the break 2-0 up on the night and level at 2-2 on aggregate.
However, second-half goals from Fabinho, Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane killed off Villarreal with the Spanish side lacking the same energy they had demonstrated in the first half.
And former Manchester United defender Ferdinand was left questioning whether Emery told his side to take a breather in the second half.
“That was an opportunity missed for Villarreal. Congratulations to Liverpool, deserved winners in the end. They were on the ropes but they were allowed to get themselves back together at half-time,” Ferdinand told BT Sport.
“Villarreal took their foot off the pedal, all their great work pressurising Liverpool, pinning them back, not giving them any time, but in the second half they played exactly how they played in the first leg and got demolished.
“I don’t know how they let them off, was it a conscious decision from Unai Emery? Did they make sure they had a breather? It killed them. Liverpool smelt blood and fair play to them they demolished this Villarreal team.”
Unai Emery and his Villarreal team made sure tonight wasn’t plain sailing for Liverpool.
A team that never gives in
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 3, 2022
On making a third Champions League final in five years, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp hailed it as “Massive. Outstanding.”
Speaking after their win over Villarreal, Klopp added: “Before the game I told the boys I’d like to read the headline ‘Mentality monsters were in town’ – ‘Mentalidad monstrousa’ or whatever – because I wanted us to be the ones who went for the result and not defend.
“I couldn’t see that at first but the second half was. For me it was like this because of how much we impressed on them about coming back in the second half.
“With 500 games the boys played, a completely normal thing like the first half can happen but how we reacted and how it happened is special.
“I know supporters of other clubs might have been happy with the first half and that we got a ‘knock’.
“It is really difficult to reach three finals (in one season), which is probably the reason why no-one did it so far but we made it happen.
“When the finals show up in our schedule we will make sure we are ready for it.”
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