Liverpool managed to do what Juventus and Bayern Munich failed to do in this season’s Champions League, beating Villarreal.
A quickfire double in the second half courtesy of an own goal and a Sadio Mane strike ensured Liverpool’s hunt for an unprecedented quadruple remained on track at Anfield.
The Spanish side again did what has worked wonders for them this season, defend in numbers which frustrated the six-times European Cup winners.
Thiago Alcantara came the closest to breaking the deadlock with a strike from a distance that thundered off the post.
There were several half-chances for Liverpool with Jordan Henderson finding the side netting, Mohamed Salah floating an effort wide, and Mane’s deflected effort zipping just past the post.
But it was nothing new for Unai Emery’s defense as it coped well, with Pau Torres sure in his role at the back and the midfield pairing of Dani Parejo and Etienne Capoue protecting the area in front of them.
Liverpool, though, turned up the heat after the break.
Fabinho seemingly put the hosts ahead in the 50th minute but Virgil van Dijk was ruled offside in the build-up.
Three minutes later Pervis Estupinan deflected Jordan Henderson’s cross into his net that breaking Villarreal’s resistance.
Now in with their nerves settled, Liverpool found their second 2 minutes later as Mohamed Salah threaded a sublime pass through for Mane to put the game beyond the visitors.
Liverpool’s pressing was too much for the Spaniards at times and they had chances to make the result more comprehensive.
Andy Robertson had a fine effort ruled out for offside after connecting with a sweeping cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold, while Virgil van Dijk tried his luck with a long-range thunderbolt that nearly knocked Villarreal keeper Geronimo Rulli off his feet.
The score did remain two-nil at the end ahead of the second leg in Spain where Villarreal would look to deny Liverpool a place in their third champions league final in five years.
Jurgen Klopp’s side remains on course for a quadruple, having already sealed the domestic cup they are already in the final of another, in the hunt for the Premier League crown, and now a step closer to champions league glory.