The Reds arrived in Spain with a 2-0 aggregate lead from the first leg but this quickly vanished as Villarreal produced a stunning first-half blitz. However, Fabinho restored the visitors’ advantage on 62 minutes and substitute Luis Diaz doubled the lead before Sadio Mane ensured Liverpool will be playing at Stade de France on 28 May.
It was a truly epic comeback for Klopp’s side, who have shown character and mettle on many a European night in recent years. The second-half performance left the German manager in no doubt the “mentality monsters” nickname he coined many years ago remains just as relevant as ever.
“Before the game I told the boys that I wanted to read the headline the mentality monsters were in town, but only to show we tried to win the game from the start,” Klopp told reporters after the match. “But now the headline was like this because you could see how pressed we were in first half and to come back in the second half after what feels like 500 games that the boys have played.
“It is so special. I don’t know what the Spanish would be – mentalidad monstruosa maybe – but we were that in the second half.” Opening up on his decision to introduce Diaz for Diogo Jota at half-time, Klopp was keen to highlight Liverpool’s problems in the first half went far deeper than the withdrawn Portuguese forward.
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“A massive impact but I don’t like this because the next story is Diogo Jota was the problem,” Klopp told BT Sport of Diaz’s influence on the game. “Not true. We had 11 problems in the first half but we needed fresh legs. I wanted Mo (Salah) and Sadio (Mane) high and wide but not in open play situations.
“We were not ourselves but we were in the end. Luis, what a goal. He could have scored with the bicycle kick if he took it down but what a performance from him.” Klopp also declared it feels like his “first final” even though he has reached the Champions League showpiece on two previous occasions with Liverpool and once before that with Borussia Dortmund.