Late goals brought joy to both remaining Spanish sides in the Europa League semifinals. Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool fell to Villarreal while Sevilla salvaged a draw against Shakhtar Donetsk from the spot.
Villarreal 1 - 0 Liverpool
(Lopez 90 +1)
Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool will need another Anfield comeback if they are to reach the Europa League final after an Adrian Lopez goal in injury time settled the first leg of their semi final clash with Villarreal in Spain.
An even game looked likely to end in stalemate, but a sublime counter attack from the hosts shocked their more illustrious opponents. Adrian Lopez was left with a simple finish after former Manchester City and Barcelona man Denis Suarez cushioned a cross-field ball before squaring for Lopez to tap in. It was a moment of composure and quality in a match that otherwise lacked both.
Shortly before kick-off, Villarreal‘s Madrigal stadium was dotted with reminders of the significance of this week for Liverpool. The home fans held aloft a banner that read “96, You’ll Never Walk Alone” and, in a break with tradition, the stadium announcer played Yellow Submarine – the home sides’s nickname and a song by Liverpool’s most famous sons The Beatles – as Liverpool took to the field for the first time since a UK jury ruled that 96 of the club’s fans were “unlawfully killed” in the Hillsborough Stadium disaster of 1989.
Villarreal started brightly, the hosts moving the ball around well, but Liverpool had the game’s first real chance after just five minutes. Unfortunately for the Reds, it fell to Joe Allen, a midfielder not renowned for his goalscoring prowess. The Welshman arrived on the end of Adam Lallana’s pass unmarked, but could only shoot straight at Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo from the penalty spot.
The Yellow Submarine were soon back on course though, carving out chances of their own. A strong save from Liverpool's Simon Mignolet denied Pina a goal after 21 minutes, and Roberto Soldado curled a shot wide from the edge of the box just before the sides went in level at the break.
Villarreal striker Cédric Bakambu came close to scoring after the break, hitting the post off a corner shortly after the restart. The game then became tetchy for a while, with Klopp involved in sideline spat with opposite number Marcelino, the disagreement quickly resolved with a hug.
After slowing down for a time, the game became more stretched in the final 10 minutes with both Bakumbu and Liverpool’s full-back Alberto Moreno spurning presentable chances. Bakumbu was denied by an excellent full-lenth save from Mignolet but Moreno had no such excuse, blazing wide from close range after a surging run.
Moreno was soon made to regret his profligacy as Lopez gleefully tapped home the game winner. As the home fans belted out another rendition of Yellow Submarine, Klopp headed for the away fans to offer a fist pump of encouragement. His Liverpool may need the Anfield 12th man next week to mount a similar comeback to the one they achieved against Dortmund in the quarterfinals.
Shakhtar Donetsk 2 -2 Sevilla
(Marlos 23‘,Stepanenko 35‘ – Vitolo 6‘, Gameiro 82‘)
Sevilla has remained on course for a hat-trick of Europa League wins following a high octane clash against 2009 winners Shakhtar Donetsk in Lviv. The Spanish side won the competition in 2014 and 2015 and appear destined for another final after a late penalty from Kevin Gameiro secured a draw and two away goals.
The two-time defending champions started well. Vitolo opened the scoring with left footed strike from the right hand side of the penalty area in the sixth minute.
The Ukrainian side hit back in the 23rd minute, Brazilian winger Marlos latching on to a through ball and finishing with his left to level things up. Goalscorer then turned provider with Marlos giving the ammunition for Taras Stepanenko to put the Ukranians in the lead twelve minutes later, ensuring Shakhtar, who are forced to play in Lviv, 800km from their war-torn home city, went in to the break ahead.
Their halftime lead was one Shakhtar could not hold onto though. A foul on Vitolo eight minutes from fulltime enabledGameiro to put Sevilla firmly in the driving seat, beating Andriy Pyatov for his 22nd goal of the season in all competitons.