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Villarreal strike late, take 1-0 lead to Anfield

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A stoppage-time goal from Adrián Lopez gave Villarreal a 1-0 victory in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal.

David Ramos/Getty Images

It was not a match for the ages--it was tight, tense, and to be honest there were long stages with not a lot of attacking quality from either side--but in the end, Villarreal sent most of the El Madrigal crowd home happy with a 1-0 victory.

From the beginning it was clear Liverpool was concerned about Villarreal's ability to counterattack, and so they were willing to let Villarreal have the ball and counterattack themselves.  Both teams organized themselves well in defense, and while Liverpool found some success down the flanks, none of the headers from those flanks created much danger.  Villarreal tried to be more direct, but none of those passes clicked either.  The two best opportunities for either side both came from balls pinging around the box and dropping to someone--Joe Allen had a great chance to give Liverpool the lead five minutes in but shot straight at Asenjo, and 20 minutes in Tomas Pina's low shot from the top of the box forced a good stop from Mignolet in the Liverpool goal.

HT Villarreal 1-0 Liverpool

Villarreal had a great chance to take the lead shortly after play resumed, but Cedric Bakambu's free header went off the post.  After that, though,Liverpool seemed in command.  Not so much because they had many chances themselves (the only one really was a shot from Firmino, tipped onto the post by Asenjo), but because Villarreal's offense just sputtered.

Marcelino introduced Castillejo and Adrián for Jonathan dos Santos and Roberto Soldado, clearly believing we had to have a goal, and in fact had Manu Trigueros ready to come in for Pina but Eric Bailly had to be subbed, Mateo Musacchio coming in for his first action in two months.

Bailly's injury came on a play where Liverpool, for the first time in the entire match, found space over our defense.  Lallana was called offside (he wasn't) and the chance was gone.  As the minutes passed, discussion turned to whether or not Liverpool should be happy with a 0-0 result.

And then....out of nowhere, Villarreal had the chance they wanted, Cedric Bakambú splitting the defenders and lashing a lovely, low, hard shot...Cedric was already wheeling away in celebration...but Mignolet somehow got a hand to it and pushed it away.

And off the corner, a Denis Suarez miskick let Alberto Moreno rampage toward our goal for a one-on-one with Asenjo, but at least Denis got back enough to put him off and Moreno shot way over everyone.  But it just seemed, for the first time all match, that there was a goal to be had--and in the 92nd minute Villarreal claimed it.

Two excellent passes--the first by Bruno (who, up until then, had had a poor match by his standards), over the top of the defense to Denis Suarez.  Kolo Toure was beaten, and the first touch from Denis was perfect, his pass to the wide-open Adrián equally so, and he calmly sidefooted it into the empty net.

Very little to do from the restart except defend one last foray into our half, then the whistle went.

FT Villarreal 1-0 Liverpool

Will it be enough?  Liverpool have to have more attacking intent at home than they did today; of course that leaves open the chance for a counter to produce another goal for the Submarine.  That really might be the key--if Villarreal scores in Anfield, they'll have to feel pretty good about their chances.  If not, it will be tough to hold out for a 0-0 in Anfield, in my opinion.  ENDAVANT VILLARREAL!!!!