Why Liverpool skipped the first-half highlights against Villarreal

It is normal Liverpool practice to show the team video footage at half-time in matches to show what they had done right in the opening 45 minutes of game.

The job is delegated to assistant coach Peter Krawietz whose job it is to find a few clips that illustrate best what Jurgen Klopp wants from his team.

The problem though at half-time in their Champions League semi-final second leg is that there was nothing to show the team, who had been second best all night to that stage.

All talk of the team achieving a unique quadruple looked like it was about to go up in smoke.

Later, Liverpool, who so often rely on the Anfield crowd as a 12th man admitted that they were surprised by the atmosphere in the El Madrigal stadium, and, once Villarreal had taken an early lead, they were always in trouble and, by the time they headed back to the dressing room their first leg advantage had been wiped out.

Klopp chose to ignore technology and instead chose to change the situation with words. Rather than shout at them, he reminded them that the tie was still level, and told them to play the same way that they had all season.

He told them to cut down the length of their passing, altered the positioning of his full-backs, and encouraged the front three to be mobile. Substituting Luis Díaz for Diego Jota also proved to be a masterstroke, because the Colombian added pace, directness and quality to what had been a prosaic attacking display up to that point.

Of course, every turnaround needs a fall guy, and Villarreal supplied one in the form of goalkeeper Gerómino Rulli, who was culpable for all three goals Liverpool scored in the second half. He allowed strikes from Fabinho and Díaz to go through his legs, whilst his up-field advance that ended with Sadio Mané taking the ball around him was ill-advised in the extreme.

So bad was his performance that many named him man of the match.

Liverpool’s victory on Tuesday night means that they are the first English team ever to reach the final of the EFL Cup, the FA Cup, and the Champions League in the same season. And, of course, there is the not insignificant matter of their league campaign, which resumes with a home match against Tottenham at Anfield on Saturday night.

The odds against them completing the quadruple are still stacked against them, because of the jeopardy attached to every match now until the end of the season.

 They have seven games left – three cup finals and four league fixtures – and they will need to win all of them.

At the same time, though, winning is an addictive habit, and, the more they win, the more it becomes second nature. They may have been on the ropes at one stage against Villarreal on Tuesday night, but Klopp’s side have now got enough muscle memory that they can dig themselves out of tight spots.

It will take a top team to stop them.

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