Liverpool are a wrecking ball this season and only a few opponents have lived through 90-minutes of that ruthlessness and come out unscathed but Villarreal aren’t one of those teams.
The Spanish side must have thought themselves the dark horse when they galloped into Anfield for the first leg UEFA Champions League semi final, but Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool dealt them a decisive blow, one that may potentially have sunk the Yellow Submarines.
A cagey first half, which Liverpool controlled totally, with the visitors opting to sit deep and soak in the pressure – a scene all too familiar these days with opponents at Fortress Anfield – quickly gave way in the second half as the Reds cranked up the Heavy Metal rock.
And eight minutes after the break the hosts were one goal up.
Villarreal could no longer contain the pressure and it burst the pipe as Jordan Henderson’s effort ricochet off Pervis Estupinan to beat his goalkeeper, Geronimo Rulli, to make it 1-0.
Two minutes later, the home crowd were celebrating a second, this time no help was needed as Sadio Mane combined with Mohamed Salah, the duo in their joint 50th appearance produced the 9th goal helped on by either player in the UCL.
It was the Senegalese who benefited this time around, played through by the Egyptian maestro, to coolly slot the ball past Rulli.
Seeing his game plan shattered Unai Emery swung into action with several changes including replacing quarter-final hero and conqueror of Bayern Munich, Samuel Chukwueze.
On the night Chukwueze joined the exclusive group of Nigerians to have appeared in a UCL semi final match.
He became only the Eight player and the first since Kelechi Iheanacho did so in 2016 for Manchester City.
Nonetheless, the Reds like a predator cat had the jugular of this prey locked and there was no letting go.
The Spanish tactician would have to wait another day – in fact a fortnight – for a more ingenious idea on breaking the Reds, something his Villarreal team is quite capable of.
A 2-0 lead heading into the second leg is an advantage Klopp himself will be satisfied with as he keeps his focus on a second UCL title – in three years – with Liverpool.