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Thursday 19 April 2018

Five things we learned from Villarreal's Europa League win over Liverpool

Liverpool slipped to a last-gasp 1-0 defeat to Villarreal in Spain in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final.

Here, Press Association Sport picks out five things we learned from the clash at El Madrigal.

1. Football has the power to unite

Prior to kick-off at El Madrigal, Villarreal fans unfurled a banner paying their respects to the 96 fans who lost their lives at Hillsborough in 1989 in what has been an emotional week for their Merseyside opponents. Known as the Yellow Submarine, the Spanish club then treated their visitors to the 1960s Beatles classic, prompting a memorable sing-along from all sides of the stadium.

2. Sturridge out in the cold...again

Daniel Sturridge can feel a little hard done by not to have started in Spain. Despite having scored three goals in his last three Barclays Premier League games, the England striker found himself benched at El Madrigal as Jurgen Klopp opted for a flexible forward trio of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana. Flexible it may have been, potent it was not as Liverpool struggled to create anything in the first half. Jordon Ibe came on for Coutinho at the start of the second half, and although Firmino hit a post in the 66th minute, the Reds lacked the killer touch Sturridge could surely have provided. To compound Sturridge's misery, Christian Benteke was Klopp's preferred option for the closing moments.

3. Sakho not such a big loss?

Mamadou Sakho's suspension following a failed drugs test led to suggestions that Liverpool's defence would be significantly weakened for the remaining games of the season, but Kolo Toure stepped into the breach admirably in Spain...for 90 minutes at least! The Reds defence was well organised for the most part, with Toure and centre-back partner Dejan Lovren dealing with crosses and virtually everything Villarreal had to throw at them until the start of time added on when they were caught on the break and Adrian Lopez pounced.

4. Same old Soldado

Roberto Soldado, who signed for Tottenham for £26million in August 2013, is still not the player he was at Valencia. The Spaniard was prolific for Los Che and hopes were high when he moved to White Hart Lane. But Soldado, who claims his head wasn't right in London, was a flop for Spurs and moved to Villarreal in an £11million deal in August 2015. He has only scored five Primera Division goals and two in the Europa League this season and spurned two of the home side's best chances against Liverpool - the second curling inches wide - before he was taken off in the 74th minute.

5. Suarez was a City slicker

Manchester City let a good one go in Denis Suarez. The Spanish winger was 19 when he left the Etihad Stadium with two Capital One Cup appearances to his name to move back to Spain with Barcelona. After starring for their 'B' team, Suarez joined Sevilla on a season-long loan before switching to Villarreal in 2015. He was the star performer for Marcelino's men with his jinking runs and clever passing. Impressive close control allowed the 22-year-old to get in behind the Liverpool defence and lay the ball on a plate for Lopez to grab the winner.

Press Association

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