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Michael Owen and Peter Crouch warned Liverpool over Villarreal as Reds left stunned


Michael Owen and Peter Crouch were quickly proved right as Liverpool saw their aggregate lead evaporate in the first half of the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Villarreal.

The Reds travelled to Spain on Tuesday night defending a commanding 2-0 advantage but saw this halved just three minutes into the clash at El Madrigal. Boulaye Dia poked home from Etienne Capoue’s knock-down across the box to send the home fans into frenzy and reignite the tie.

Villarreal were the better side throughout the entirety of the first half and looked far more composed than their visitors. The Yellow Submarine had plenty of joy with direct, line-splitting passes, especially aiming to exploit the space left in behind by Trent Alexander-Arnold, who was based typically high up Liverpool’s right flank.

Villarreal’s brilliant start came moments after Owen and Crouch voiced their fears the Spanish club could cause their former side far more problems than they managed at Anfield. “Villarreal will have to make them suffer more than they did at Anfield because it was plain sailing for Liverpool,” Owen told BT Sport .

“They hardly had a kick did they, Villarreal, they hardly got into Liverpool’s half. It will be slightly different tonight. I said after the last game that they might have to change their tactics slightly because when you’re against Liverpool’s press, you’ve got to do something different or they’ll just come up against exactly the same. Villarreal might go more direct and play the ball in behind, Liverpool will try to stop that though.”

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Michael Owen
Michael Owen warned Liverpool they could be vulnerable to long balls from Villarreal

Crouch added: “I don’t know how they (Villarreal) go about this tonight. If you come out early and try to press Liverpool, they’ll get destroyed. Liverpool have so much pace, ability in attacking areas, but if they get an early goal it might change things.”

As the former England striker suspected, the early goal certainly changed things and, astonishingly, Villarreal levelled the aggregate score just before the interval thanks to Francis Coquelin’s powerful header as Capoue registered his second assist of the night. The visitors could hardly muster a chance and their best opportunity fell to Diogo Jota, who saw his effort from close range blocked.

The half-time whistle was met with plenty of relief for Jurgen Klopp, whose side’s hopes of lifting an unprecedented quadruple were left teetering. In truth, the Reds were likely grateful to reach the break without conceding another goal having produced one of their most calamitous 45 minutes of football of the whole season.





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