For a bit, I thought what was going to come back and bite us was the bizarre and horrific refusal of the UEFA officiating crew to award an obvious penalty when Alisson took out Lo Celso in the box but ultimately, it didn’t matter. We dominated Liverpool for a half, were up 2-0, El Madrigal was rocking in a way I’ve never seen and we all thought it might actually be possible.
In the end though, Gerard wasn’t healthy enough to go a full 90, many players ran out of energy, Etienne Capoue received two yellows and was ejected, and Geronimo Rulli put in his worst performance ever in a Villarreal shirt.
I’ve defended Rulli, and many times over the last two years he’s played his best football in the biggest moments. He punched a lot against Liverpool in the first leg but was certainly unlucky on one of them. In this match though, his personal unraveling will be marked nearly as starkly in the history books as his penalty make and save that won us the UEL.
It was nothing short of a meltdown. On the first Liverpool goal he covered his post only to have the ball get rifled right between his legs in a save he absolutely should have made. In the second, he faced a free header on a perfectly timed run from Luis Diaz, made contact with it, but again watched it go between his legs. On the third, he bizarrely ran out of his box only to get rounded by Mane for an easy third. He made a similar mistake minutes later and nearly gave up a fourth to Salah.
It should have been better. It shouldn’t have ended this way. We should have gotten a result from this leg, and heck, if Gerard were healthy for a 180 minutes maybe the tie goes differently, maybe if Danjuma could have played tonight we would have found a third. But it wasn’t to be, not this year.
Heckuva run. Endavant Villarreal.