Liverpool will travel to Basel in 12 days to contest the Europa League final after a convincing 3-0 win at Anfield against Villarreal, as they successfully overturned a one-goal deficit from last week’s first leg.
The first chance of the evening came for the away side in the fifth minute, but right-back Mario Gaspar was unable to beat Simon Mignolet at his far post after a good set-back from Roberto Soldado just inside the box.
One minute later, winger Jonathan Dos Santos then failed to hit the target after Cedric Bakambu lost control of the ball in the box under pressure from Kolo Toure, with his shot rising high over the bar.
Jurgen Klopp’s men then proceeded to level the tie in the seventh minute, much to the misfortune of Villarreal captain Bruno. Nathaniel Clyne put in a low cross that was poorly dealt with from on-loan goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, only parrying the ball to Roberto Firmino, whose ball back across goal was turned into his own net by the midfielder.
The Reds then had the opportunity to grasp control of the tie, but Adam Lallana was unable to bring a wonderful low cross from James Milner from the right under control, with the ball eventually fizzling out of play.
Milner was then responsible for picking out Dejan Lovren at the back post from a corner, but the Croat was unable to direct his header on target as it sailed harmlessly over the bar on the half-hour mark.
Villarreal tempers began to flare towards the end of the half with nothing really going their way – former Tottenham striker Soldado went into the referee’s notebook for an untimely challenge on Philippe Coutinho.
Marcelino’s side did then have the chance to level the game right on the stroke of half-time, with Bakambu showing impressive strength against Lovren to get a shot away, but Mignolet made a comfortable save.
The first chance of the second half fell for Coutinho as his Cruyff turn got him away from Gaspar, but his powerful shot was beaten away by Areola at his near post.
The Yellow Submarine’s first chance after the interval came via the head of Soldado, but he was unable to direct it on target from a free-kick just inside the Liverpool half.
In the 62nd minute, Daniel Sturridge exchanged passes with Lallana before racing in on goal, but his shot was saved by Areola to his left.
However, Klopp’s side did gain an advantage in the tie just a minute later. Sturridge managed to stay onside and finished off Firmino’s through ball, via the inside of the post.
Villarreal knew that if they could score just one they would be back in control of the tie, but the defining moment of the game came in the 71st minute when defender Victor Ruiz was booked for a foul on the edge of the box, and then was sent off for dissent towards the referee.
The tie was wrapped up nine minutes from time courtesy of Lallana. There was a huge element of fortune involved as Sturridge somehow managed to scuff a shot into the England midfielder’s path, leaving him to tap in from two yards and send Anfield into delirium.
The result means that Liverpool will take on Sevilla in the final, who recorded a commanding 3-1 home win against Shakhtar Donetsk, with the tie ending 5-3 on aggregate.
Kevin Gameiro scored his second goal of the tie nine minutes in with a right-footed shot, but ex-Arsenal man Eduardo gave the Ukrainian side some hope after he levelled the game just before the interval with a left-footed shot after a good though ball from Marlos.
Gameiro then added his second of the night for the hosts two minutes after half-time, this time with his left foot.
The tie was then put beyond reasonable doubt through a fine strike from right-back Mariano Ferreirra, whose shot from 25 yards beat Andriy Pyatov in the Shakhtar goal.