Football Features

“It is perfect. It is complete control” – Thiago puts on a show as Liverpool dominate Villarreal in Champions League semi-finals

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:35, 27 April 2022

Thiago Alcantara led a Liverpool midfield masterclass as the Reds dominated and defeated Villarreal at Anfield.

The win puts Liverpool on the brink of the Champion League final for the first time since 2019.

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Villarreal obviously approached the game defensively, but even when they tried to counter-attack they found the midfield control so suffocating they couldn’t get out. None of their players attempted more passes than goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli’s 38, while Raul Albiol completed the most with 26. They were penned back superbly by Thiago and the Reds.

Thiago takes the lead, as he has lately with a string of masterful performances. He’s not dropped below 96% pass completion in any of the games, looking after the ball so superbly well.

He’s not just playing safe passes, though. He is actively leading the Liverpool attack with his control and mastery of the ball. For the first goal, even though it took place ages away from Thiago the nature of the build-up play focuses on one decisive and delicious flick pass.

As the Reds worked the ball out on the left, Thiago found himself out wide and pinned to the touchline by two markers. Rather than turn back and simply retained possession, he advanced the ball by slicing it with the outside of his foot between the two defenders. Without that pass from Thiago opening up the switch of play, the goal never happens. It was that important, he was that important.

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Thiago completed 99/103 passes today, including 34 passes inside Villarreal’s half, and he thundered a long shot off the bar too and was awarded Man of the Match. However he wasn’t just a passer as he had a game-high 5 interceptions as he repeatedly intercepted Villarreal outlet passes, leading the way along with midfield partners Fabinho and Jordan Henderson.

The Brazilian made three tackles and 4 interceptions, while Henderson made four tackles and of course it was his cross that was deflected into the back of the net to open the scoring for the Reds.

Owen Hargreaves, a midfielder of some repute in his playing days, was enthralled by the Reds’ trio. Speaking on BT Sport’s post-match coverage he said: “Fabinho, Thiago and Henderson is perfect. It is complete control. Thiago has been the best player on the pitch tonight.”

“Thiago, Fabinho and Henderson were unbelievable,” agreed Peter Crouch before focusing on Thiago’s high pass accuracy.

“I think sometimes those stats can be misleading, you know the 96, 98% – from players that give it 5-10 yards, y’know? Players that win the ball and then give it to someone who can play,” said the former Liverpool player.

“He wins the ball and he’s hitting 30-40 yard passes, or he’s playing short or he’s playing it through the lines with the eyes. And he’s still got that percentage of pass completion,” suffice to say, Crouch was impressed; “he’s not just someone that passes sideways and backwards; he creates things, but the passes are completed every time. He’s gone up a few levels in the last few games no doubt.”

Karim Benzema favourite 8/15 with Paddy Power
Other contenders Paddy Power
Mohamed Salah 13/2
Kevin De Bruyne  13/2
Kylian Mbappe 12/1
Robert Lewandowski 14/1
Lionel Messi 20/1
Harry Kane 25/1
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