Liverpool v Villarreal Semi Final Leg One - UEFA Champions League


'Actually': Gary Neville shares what he really thought after watching Liverpool play Villarreal on Wednesday

Gary Neville has claimed that he respected Villarreal’s defensive approach to taking on Liverpool on Wednesday night.

Unai Emery’s team had just one shot all evening as The Reds thoroughly dominated them. But despite the 2-0 win giving Liverpool a big advantage to take to Spain next week, Neville told The Gary Neville Podcast that he thought Emery set his team up the right way.

“I actually really enjoyed the Liverpool vs Villarreal game. I respected that game, a team (who are) massive underdogs playing so deep,” he said.

“But I just thought the discipline of Liverpool, the persistence and the way they carried on doing the right things.

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“Liverpool are a team who can win football matches in different ways. They can out box you, they can go toe to toe and punch to punch and they can also be patient and they can wait and pass it around. They don’t panic.”

It’s easy to say in retrospect, but there was a little bit of frustration creeping in during the first-half of the Champions League semi-final.

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The Reds needed a bit of luck with Jordan Henderson’s deflected opener early after the restart and never looked back from there.

A dangerous scoreline for Liverpool

If Wednesday’s game went very much how many thought it would go, next week in Villarreal may be slightly different.

It isn’t in Liverpool’s nature to try to protect a lead over such a long time, especially against a team they dominated so comfortably.

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Having said that, The Reds had the same scoreline in the first-leg of their last-16 tie against Inter Milan in February. After winning 2-0 in Milan, they looked to play within themselves back at Anfield.

Unsure whether to stick or twist, Liverpool really did neither and ended up losing the game 1-0. Had Alexis Sanchez not been sent off immediately after Lautaro Martinez had opened the scoring, Klopp’s men may have been in danger of going out.

Liverpool need to avoid a repeat of that next Tuesday. The best way to cement their place in the final is to play exactly the way they’ve been playing all season.

Villarreal will have to open up a little more as they search for at least two goals to take the game to extra-time. In theory, this should open up the space for Liverpool’s counter-attacking threat.

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With such experience coursing through the side, there’s no chance that Liverpool will think the job is done already.

Champions League semi-final’s can sometimes take on a life of their own given what is at stake.

Liverpool will hope that after the drama of some of their own recent appearances at this stage of the competition, they’ll be in for a less eventful evening at the Estadio de la Ceramica.

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