Villarreal strike late against Liverpool, Sevilla draw at Shakhtar
By Toby Davis
LONDON (Reuters) - Villarreal's Adrian Lopez produced a stinging sucker punch in stoppage time to leave Liverpool reeling and move the Spaniards closer to a maiden European final after their Europa League last four first leg clash finished 1-0 on Thursday.
Liverpool, who got a taste of their own medicine having scored deep in added time to knock Borussia Dortmund out in the quarter-finals, looked comfortable before Denis Suarez broke into the box and unselfishly squared for Lopez to sweep home.
In the other semi-final, holders Sevilla had their fingers briefly loosened from the trophy before grabbing a 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk that left them well-placed to progress.
Sevilla's bid to become the first side to lift the trophy three years running got off to a great start when they opened the scoring through Vitolo after six minutes.
Shakhtar produced a spirited response, though, with goals from Marlos and Taras Stepanenko to lead at halftime before Kevin Gameiro's 82nd-minute penalty left the Spaniards as favorites to progress with two away goals.
Five times European champions Liverpool had not lost in 12 Europa League games this season and were facing a Villarreal side out to banish a last-four curse and reach a European final for the first time at their fourth attempt.
Villarreal had proven to be shrewd opponents in Europe's second tier competition and in Cedric Bakambu boast a striker with nine goals in this season's Europa League, while no Liverpool player has scored more than two.
The Merseysiders' manager Juergen Klopp decided to leave the most prolific marksman at his disposal, Daniel Sturridge, on the bench for the entire 90 minutes and in his absence the visitors looked cautious and labored in attack. Continued...