The Introduction Of Luis Díaz Changed The Game For Liverpool Against Villarreal
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Heading into Tuesday's Champions League semifinal return leg at La Cerámica, both Villarreal and Liverpool knew it'd be a far cry from the Reds' 90 minutes of controlled dominance at Anfield.
"The match next week will be very different from tonight's," Villarreal boss Unai Emery said after the first leg. "I think they are going to suffer more next week in our home."
On Monday, Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp delivered a similar take by saying his side had "to be ready to suffer and sit back in moments, but not as a general approach."
Liverpool certainly suffered in Spain, and to Klopp's sure horror, it lasted for 45 consecutive first half minutes as his team's 2-0 cushion evaporated to 2-2.
It wasn't time to panic, but it was time to tear up the original script by introducing Luis Díaz for Diogo Jota to start the second half.
The 25-year-old Colombian has been a revelation in England since arriving from Porto in January in a deal that could cost up to $63 million, scoring three and creating two more in his first 10 Premier League appearances, but it was his goal and assist in the UCL quarterfinal first leg that allowed Liverpool to breathe easy against Benfica.
On Tuesday, Díaz again furthered his legend.
Liverpool immediately switch gears with his introduction, and although he might have done better with a 57th-minute cross from Sadio Mané that he attempted to acrobatically scissor kick home, it was Díaz who ultimately put Villarreal down in the 67th-minute with a header to go up 4-2 on aggregate.
LUIS DÍAZ PUTS IT THROUGH RULLI'S LEGS. AGAIN. pic.twitter.com/VVmAA2OIAr— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) May 3, 2022
In 45 live wire minutes, Díaz ended with a match-high four shots, a joint-most (alongside Mané) four dribbles, completed 90% of his passes and made life hell for Villarreal's tiring defense.
A game-changing impact ✨
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 3, 2022
Díaz is immensely likable on the pitch with his skill and positivity, but his story off it is equally incredible. Prior to last month's Merseyside Derby, Sky Sports' Nick Wright wrote a profile on Díaz after interviewing his former coaches in Colombia and Portugal. Read it.
A member of the Wayuu indigenous community, Díaz is a native of one of Colombia's most underdeveloped regions and wasn't spotted by professional clubs until excelling at a 3,000-person tryout at the age of 18.
From there, despite his obvious talent, questions lingered over his physical attributes — too skinny, not enough strength and physical conditioning — but Díaz stood out from both a pure talent stand point and in his willingness to learn, improve and dedicate himself entirely to the craft.
Now that overlooked indigenous boy from La Guajira is a Champions League finalist.
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) May 3, 2022