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Soccer: Liverpool edges Villarreal, advances to Champions League final

Soccer: Liverpool edges Villarreal, advances to Champions League final
Liverpool striker Sadio Mane (R) celebrates after scoring against Villarreal CF during their UEFA Champions League semifinal second-leg soccer match on Tuesday in Villarreal, Spain. Photo by Biel Alino/EPA-EFE

May 3 (UPI) -- Liverpool overcame their sluggish effort in the first half and rallied past Villarreal 3-2 on Tuesday at Estadio de la Ceramica, advancing to the Champions League final for the third time in five seasons.

Villarreal looked ready to pull off another stunning upset in the European soccer tournament after jumping out to a two-goal lead in the first half to offset their first-leg loss in England, but the Spanish club couldn't maintain its pace as Liverpool came from behind to advance 5-2 on aggregate.

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Liverpool, who won the 2018-19 Champions League title, now awaits the result of the other semifinal second leg Wednesday at the Santiago Bernabeu -- with Manchester City leading Real Madrid 4-3 on aggregate. The final is scheduled for May 28 in Paris.

"We never tend to make these Champions League semis easy for ourselves," Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold said. "It was difficult for us [in the] first half, sometimes you can't really control the game the way you want to.

RELATED Champions League: Liverpool knocks off Villarreal in semifinal first leg

"They started the game very well, scored early goals which is obviously what they wanted to do, but like I said, we got the game done."

Jurgen Klopp's side entered the match up 2-0 on aggregate from the first leg, but Liverpool quickly went behind after Villarreal's Boulaye Dia scored from close range just three minutes into the affair to give his club an early second-leg lead.

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Liverpool was left frustrated throughout the remainder of the opening half, failing to record a single shot on target. Villarreal, meanwhile, doubled their lead right before the halftime break -- and leveled the aggregate score -- when Francis Coquelin slotted home a header on 41 minutes.

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The Premier League side finally scored in the 62nd minute, when Fabinho fired a powerful shot through the legs of Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli.

Liverpool substitute Luis Diaz then headed Alexander-Arnold's corner kick past Rulli to level the second-leg match at two goals apiece, giving the English club a 4-2 aggregate lead that it wouldn't relinquish.

Sadio Mane scored in the 74th minute to cap Liverpool's victory, keeping alive their hopes of a Quadruple. Liverpool already won the Carabao Cup and is in contention for the Premier League, UCL and FA Cup titles.

RELATED Champions League: Manchester City edges Real Madrid in semifinal clash

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