Luck or skill? After Liverpool’s 2-0 victory over Villarreal in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal, Thierry Henry said it was more the former. Based on how the match went, it’s hard to argue with the World Cup and Champions League winner.
An own goal and a Sadio Mané strike two minutes later were all that separated Liverpool and Villarreal at Anfield on Wednesday night. On the CBS postgame coverage, Henry claimed Liverpool should feel fortunate to take a 2-0 advantage into the second leg.
“If you look at the game, I think a lucky goal bailed them out for me; I think they would have knocked on the door all night,” Henry said.
Studio host Kate Abdo then quickly cut Henry off to ask for clarification about Liverpool being lucky.
“Yeah, it’s a lucky goal,” Henry responded. “The Villarreal (own) goal is a lucky goal. And before that, they were not showing a lot.”
Liverpool fans will vehemently disagree with Henry, while Villarreal supporters will probably find his take refreshing.
Let’s take a look at the highlights and decide.
Was Liverpool Lucky vs. Villarreal?
The Reds dominated 73 percent of possession on the night. They outshot the Yellow Submarine 19-1, but just five of those shots were on target and only one went in.
The goal that finally broke through and just the third allowed by Villarreal in the knockout rounds was a bit fluky. Jordan Henderson’s attempted cross was deflected awkwardly by Pervis Estupiñán just out of reach of keeper Gerónimo Rulli and into the back of the net.
LIVERPOOL GET THE BREAKTHROUGH. pic.twitter.com/tK41GaKwQj— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) April 27, 2022
Lucky? Yes. If Villarreal had scored that way at the other end, everyone would’ve said it was unlucky for Liverpool.
Moments later, Jürgen Klopp’s side capitalized on its brief momentum and made it 2-0 thanks to a connection between Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané. The Egyptian nutmegged a defender to find the Senegalese, who toe-poked the ball home.
This nutmeg assist from Salah. pic.twitter.com/utTfMg43jp— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) April 27, 2022
Lucky? No. It was a world-class goal scored by two world-class players.
To that point, Henry agreed.
“After that (first goal), there is nothing about lucky,” Henry said. “The pass of Mo Salah is outstanding. That deflated goal just knocked them (Villarreal) out a bit and they couldn’t readjust to what came after that. After the 2-0, it was all Liverpool.”
The question is, would the second goal have been scored if the own goal hadn’t gone in. It’s impossible to say. Villarreal managed to eke out aggregate wins over Juventus and Bayern Munich playing this style of defensive football, but playing at Anfield against this Liverpool side is a much different ask.
All that said, there’s nothing wrong with getting a little lucky, even if fans don’t want to admit it.
Henry won the treble with Barcelona in 2009 and knows you need a few bounces to go your way if you’re hoping to make history, as Liverpool is hoping to do aiming for a quadruple. And few players were as lucky as Henry when his handball was ignored against Ireland in the 2010 World Cup qualifying playoffs, which arguably was the primary impetus that led to the introduction of the VAR in European football.
“Along the way, I will say I had the opportunity to win a treble: If you go for the quadruple you need to have that luck also go your way,” Henry said.
The Reds are on track for an historic quadruple. They won the Carabao Cup earlier this year, play Chelsea for the FA Cup on May 14 and currently trail Manchester City by one point with five games to play in the Premier League. After Wednesday’s 2-0 win, Liverpool has one foot in the Champions League final.
Liverpool finished with 1.52xG compared to 0.14xG for the visitors. Lucky or not, the Reds will take the result heading into the second leg back in Villarreal on Tuesday, May 3.