Liverpool are through to the Champions League final after being Villarreal at El Madrigal on Tuesday evening, and to say the game was one of two halves is an understatement.
Jurgen Klopp’s side conceded two goals in the first half after Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin found the back of the net to put the two teams back on a level playing field on aggregate going into the second half.
Despite Unai Emery’s team showing overwhelming character and quality in the first half against Liverpool matching them for possession (50%), it wasn’t enough to hold off their opponents with Luis Diaz completely changing the game when he was brought on to give his team a fresh attacking perspective.
Liverpool instantly improved on their shocking first-half performance and eventually found a way to break down their opponent’s defence and goalkeeper when Fabinho found the back of the net in the 62nd minute, closely followed by a goal-hungry Diaz just five minutes later and inevitably Sadio Mane killed the game completely with a third second-half goal in the 74th minute.
Yet again, Mane proved he is worth his weight in gold to Liverpool with the Senegalese winger securing his third Champions League final in an exceptional all-round performance that ultimately rescued his team in the second half of the game.
The 30-year-old who was once dubbed a “wild animal” by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, was successful in 100% of his dribbles, made two key passes and two tackles as well as winning 14 of his 19 duels combined to complete a phenomenal performance that has led him to his fourth final for club and country in just five months.
Mane not only proved how incredibly integral he is for his team, but also matched Chelsea legend Frank Lampard’s record for goals scored in the knock-out stages of the Champions League with 15 strikes in the competition, and has now become the highest scoring African player in the knock-out stages of the competition by surpassing Didier Drogba with his finish on Tuesday.
Liverpool have now earned themselves a spot in a third final this season, after winning the Carabao Cup and securing a spot in both the FA Cup final and the Champions League final in Paris.
Klopp, however, still has a huge job on his hands to keep the quadruple dreams alive for the Merseyside club.