Klopp insists 'it's only half time' after Liverpool put one foot in Champions League final

Reds claimed a comfortable 2-0 win over Villarreal at Anfield to keep quadruple chase on track

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Jurgen Klopp has warned his Liverpool players that it is "only half time" after taking control of the Champions League semi-final with a 2-0 first leg win over Villarreal at Anfield on Wednesday night.

Two second-half goals in quick succession gave the quadruple-chasing Premier League club a firm grasp of the tie after a match they dominated from start to finish. The deadlock was broken in the 53rd minute when Villarreal defender Pervis Estupinan deflected a Jordan Henderson cross beyond Geronimo Rulli, before Liverpool doubled their lead two minutes later after Sadio Mane latched on to Mohamed Salah's pass.

On the evidence of Tuesday's first leg, it will take something monumental for Villarreal to turn the tie around and reach their first Champions League final, but Liverpool manager Klopp insisted there is still plenty of work ahead.

"In football it is always the same. You show the respect to the opponent in the way that you defend them," the German told BT Sport. "That is what we did and I liked it a lot. The counter-press was outstanding. The boys were really in the game from the first to the last second and that is why we won. It is only half time but it is better than before the game.

"Maybe for the second leg, [Villarreal striker] Gerard Moreno will be back, maybe one more. This is not all and is not a problem, we knew this before that we had two legs. If it is 0-0 tonight we go there anyway so it is all fine."

Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara echoed his manager's stance and believes the Reds will face a sterner challenge at Villarreal's El Madrigal stadium.

However, he said the team's focus needs to be on Saturday's Premier League visit to in-form Newcastle United as Liverpool continue their pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple. The Reds, who won the League Cup in February, are in the hunt for all four trophies this season having reached the FA Cup final while sitting just one point behind Manchester City in the Premier League table.

"We have to recognise that we are playing a semi-final of the Champions League against a tough team like Villarreal and have to have the space to be ourselves, that's the key," he said.

"I really enjoyed the team performance, that for me is the best thing, because we put our level as high as possible and we delivered today."

Liverpool v Villarreal player ratings

"It will be hard there, I know this stadium before because of my time at Barcelona, but we don't have time to think about the game there. We have to think about our game at the weekend so that's all for us."

Villarreal have developed a habit of upsetting the giants of European football in the Champions League this season, eliminating Juventus and Bayern Munich in the past two rounds, and manager Unai Emery expects a more competitive showing from his team inside their own stadium on Tuesday.

"We can't tell nothing about the victory because they deserve it. The first half was defensively good but we didn't achieve in attack," he said.

"They had two or three chances to score. The second half was the same and they pushed and deserved to score; 2-0 is a good difference for them, for us not a good result but we will try to dream and do something different in our home.

"The match next week will be very different than tonight. It is very important in our home to change something, maybe tactically. They are going to suffer more than tonight."

Updated: April 28, 2022, 5:20 AM
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