Liverpool romped into the Europa League final with a 3-0 win over Villarreal on another magical night at Anfield to tee up a showpiece clash with holders Sevilla who swatted away visitors Shakhtar Donetsk 3-1 on 5 May. Five times European champions Liverpool reached a 12th continental final thanks to an own goal from Bruno Soriano and further strikes from Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana to overturn a first-leg deficit and go through 3-1 on aggregate.
Villarreal were largely anonymous throughout and seemed to wilt in the face of a raucous atmosphere and early onslaught by the hosts, while their demise was hastened by a sending off for Victor Ruiz for a second booking after 71 minutes.
"You saw it – the first half hour, pwoah! What power! Really, the will was obvious I would say," said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who has now guided Liverpool to two finals in his short time at the club after they lost to Manchester City in this season's League Cup final at Wembley. "Wonderful goals, well deserved," he added.
It was a superb evening for Sturridge, whose place in the starting line-up had been in doubt after he was left out of key recent fixtures, but he was instrumental in a one-sided victory that prevented Spanish dominance of Europe's two major finals. Liverpool, backed by a ferocious home crowd, broke the deadlock with an own goal from Soriano, who turned in Roberto Firmino's cross from the left with Sturridge lurking.
It took until the 63rd minute, however, for the hosts to add to their lead as Sturridge justified his place in the line-up with a sharp finish when he turned in Firmino's effort from close range. The England striker has been on the bench in a number of key games this season, having seemingly failed to convince manager Juergen Klopp of his suitability, but gave the German a taste of his immense talent with a superb display.
"When Daniel Sturridge is fit he is an unbelievable, unbelievable striker, everybody knows this. But even he needs players to play with. I know about his quality, I knew before coming here and now and I know it better. Great player, good to have him here," enthused Klopp.
Just as in the first leg, Marcelino and Klopp clashed several times on the sidelines in a heated contest. After the match, the tension did not appear to ease, with Marcelino appearing to criticise his counterpart's reaction to winning the game. Klopp, when told about Marcelino's comments in the post-match news conference, was visibly angry and retorted: "I would not be like him one second in my life."