Jordan Henderson thought his name would go down on the scoresheet as Liverpool beat Villarreal 2-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, only for his opener to go down as an own goal
The Reds put one foot in the Champions League final by beating Unai Emery’s men in the first leg of their semi-final at Anfield and it was Henderson’s 53rd-minute cross which broke the deadlock. The 30-year-old drove forward down the right flank and his delivery was deflected in off Villarreal defender Pervis Estupinan, deceiving goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli at his near post.
Although Henderson wheeled away in celebration, UEFA officials put it down as an own goal and the Liverpool captain was only told post-match. BT Sport reporter Des Kelly explained to Henderson that it was a “big deflection,” to which the midfielder replied: “I thought it went straight in.” The disappointment on Henderson’s face was clear, as left-back Andy Robertson teased his skipper with a laugh.
Nevertheless, the pair were delighted with the outcome, as Sadio Mane’s strike gave them a comfortable lead to take to Spain next Tuesday. Henderson went on to say: “They are a very organised team and we knew they would make it difficult. It was just important that we kept going and believe that we would eventually break them down. We did that with two good goals.
“First one was a bit lucky. Good build-up but a bit lucky, in off the defender and keeper I think. But you need a bit of luck when a team plays with a low block. We got that and it lifted the crowd. Majority of the game, the counter-press was really good. It made it difficult for them. But the game is still alive and it will be tough in Villarreal.”
Robertson then added: “We had a few chances in the first half, trying to break them down. We had a bit of momentum after the first goal and the noise in here was incredible. It took us to the second one. We would have liked one more but a clean sheet and two goals, we can’t argue with that.
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“It is the semi-final of the Champions League. If you can’t run around for 90 minutes in this kind of game, when will you? Our intensity has been high the last couple of games. We have had a hectic schedule but we are enjoying it. There is still work to do but we are happy.”
Thiago Alcantara echoed his teammates’ respective assessments, adding: “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. 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.
“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.”