Top Winners and Losers After Tuesday's Champions League Semifinal Leg 2 Result

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVMay 3, 2022

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - MAY 03: Fabinho celebrates with Mohamed Salah of Liverpool after scoring their team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Leg Two match between Villarreal and Liverpool at Estadio de la Ceramica on May 03, 2022 in Villarreal, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)
Aitor Alcalde - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Liverpool clinched a spot in the Champions League final after an exciting 5-2 aggregate win over Villarreal.

Villarreal stormed back from a 2-0 deficit after the first leg of the semifinal, scoring two goals in the first half of the second leg Tuesday at Estadio de la Ceramica. The momentum shifted back to the Premier League side in the second frame, scoring the next three goals to pull away for what became an easy win.

While Liverpool wound up advancing, there were several winners and losers after the latest match.

Winner: Fans of Open Play

No matter who you support, it's difficult to argue the first leg was an exciting one. After Manchester City and Real Madrid battled in a 4-3 thriller last Tuesday, Liverpool followed it up with a slow-moving 2-0 win in the next match.

Villarreal packed it in defensively and managed just one shot, none on goal, and 27 percent possession, via ESPNFC.

It was a completely different story in the second leg as Villarreal came out aggressive, looking for goals and finding them. 

B/R Football @brfootball

Three minutes in and Villarreal already got one back 😱<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/CBSSportsGolazo?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CBSSportsGolazo</a>)<a href="https://t.co/MOYbbi0oae">pic.twitter.com/MOYbbi0oae</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Liverpool had a 2-0 leading going into the second leg of the Champions League semifinal against Villarreal.<br><br>Now it's tied 🤯<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/CBSSportsGolazo?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CBSSportsGolazo</a>)<a href="https://t.co/Q0PKnKpnPF">pic.twitter.com/Q0PKnKpnPF</a>

The numbers looked much different at halftime compared to the previous match:

Statman Dave @StatmanDave

HT: Villarreal 2-0 Liverpool (2-2)<br><br>Possession: 50% - 50%<br>Passes: 199 - 195<br>Pass Accuracy: 72% - 66%<br>Shots: 5 - 2<br>xG: 1.51 - 0.09<br><br>There’s only one winner so far… 😳 <a href="https://t.co/o4Gus5C0eT">pic.twitter.com/o4Gus5C0eT</a>

Liverpool was forced to defend the entire pitch, while the few offensive opportunities came on counter-attacks.

The strategy eventually led to more openings for Liverpool, however, which found space in the second half and scored three goals to regain control of the tie. The team finished with 15 shots, most of them earned through excellent passing.

It created a much more exciting battle for fans, regardless of which side came out on top.

Loser: Geronimo Rulli

Nearly everyone on Villarreal had a great match to keep things close. Geronimo Rulli had a day to forget.

The goalkeeper was mostly untested in the first half but struggled mightily in the second, allowing two goals to go through his legs:

CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ @CBSSportsGolazo

FABINHO HITS IT THROUGH RULLI'S LEGS. 💥 <a href="https://t.co/dN4Cdi82Gk">pic.twitter.com/dN4Cdi82Gk</a>

CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ @CBSSportsGolazo

LUIS DÍAZ PUTS IT THROUGH RULLI'S LEGS. AGAIN. 🔴 <a href="https://t.co/VVmAA2OIAr">pic.twitter.com/VVmAA2OIAr</a>

The third Liverpool goal was even more egregious as Rulli tried to make a play outside of his box and failed miserably:

B/R Football @brfootball

Geronimo Rulli 🥴<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/TUDNUSA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TUDNUSA</a>)<a href="https://t.co/eiHdktSd45">pic.twitter.com/eiHdktSd45</a>

It put a significant portion of the blame on the goalkeeper's shoulders after the loss:

Gabe Hauari @GabeHauari

Gerónimo Rulli is gonna want to burn all the film from this game <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UCL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UCL</a>

Felipe Cárdenas @FelipeCar

Rulli has been megged twice on goals and now that howler. <br><br>A perfect hat trick.

Sam Leveridge @samleveridge

Gerónimo Rulli, not content with conceding two goals through his legs, felt the urge to rush out to the halfway line to complete the summarised “Rulli mistakes compilation 2014-22” video clip all in 30 minutes.

WhoScored gave Rulli a 4.1 rating out a 10, easily the lowest of anyone in the match.

The result was a close match that turned into an easy win for Liverpool as Villarreal saw its title hopes come to an end.

Winner: Unai Emery

Though maybe not a favorite of Arsenal fans, Villarreal manager Unai Emery clearly thrives in cup play.

With four Europa League titles already on his resume, Emery has proved he can excel at the Champions League level as well with impressive tactics to get the most out of his players:

Ben Figo 🇳🇬 @CallMeBenfigo

Unai Emery is actually one of the best coaches in the world. <br><br>A master tactician; a master of the game.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Villarreal?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Villarreal</a>

Ifreke Inyang @Ifreke

Half time. 2-0 Villarreal. An Unai Emery Masterclass in session.

The change in strategy from the first leg to the second seemed to catch Liverpool off guard and gave Villarreal a chance to pull off the upset.

Though they couldn't keep it going in the second half, getting this far was quite an accomplishment for a team that sits just seventh place in La Liga. 

The Yellow Submarine had one of the more surprising UCL runs in recent memory, knocking out European giants Juventus and Bayern Munich during this tournament. Emery did everything he could to help his team succeed and remains one of the top managers in the sport. 

Loser: English Schedule

There aren't many days off in the English Premier League and it might finally be catching up to Liverpool.

The Reds have been in the hunt for the quadruple, having already won the Carabao Cup while earning a spot in the FA Cup final. They also sit one point behind Manchester City in the Premier League table. 

It has created a pressure situation where the squad can't afford to lose any match or drop any points in league play.

With the past month featuring high-profile matches against Manchester City, Manchester United and rival Everton, there have been few chances to rest players. Even Saturday's match against Newcastle United required several regular starters while Mohamed Salah needed to come off the bench to see out the 1-0 win.

The result was a tired team mentally and physically in a UCL semifinal.

Of course, Liverpool continued to show its resolve with another win. Luis Diaz was a game-changer coming on at halftime and the team proved its class with strong finishing in the second half.

The early struggles still showed how difficult it is to win multiple trophies in a single season. With several big fixtures still ahead in May, manager Jurgen Klopp might have to decide what's most important.

Winner: TV Executives

No matter who wins the other semifinal between Real Madrid and Manchester City, the Champions League final will be a great one.

Liverpool will either face a club with the most European titles of all time, or a major club looking for its first. There will either be a rematch of the 2018 UCL final and a classic battle of English versus Spain giants, or it will be second-straight battle of English teams in the final.

The match will also be loaded with some of the best players in the world, including Salah, Sadio Mane, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and either Karim Benzema and Luka Modric or Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.

With all due respect to the Villarreal underdog story, the majority of fans will want to see the biggest stars on the biggest stage. This is what they will get on May 28.