How Luiz Diaz helped Liverpool team-mates and stunned the Spanish media with a stunning portrayal

Diaz came off the bench on Tuesday night and played a huge role in helping Liverpool beat Villarreal 3-2 and secure their place in the Champions League final later this month

The Liverpool recruiting team would have gotten another big slap on the back on Tuesday night when their most recent marquee recruit, Luis Diaz, played a crucial role in helping the Reds secure their third-place finish Champions League last appearance in five years.

Jurgen Klopp’s side went into half-time on Tuesday night at the Estadio de la Ceramica shaken after giving up their 2-0 lead from the first leg. However, Diaz, who replaced Diogo Jota at the break, was instrumental in the inspiration Reds to another Champions League comeback.

The £50m signing in January scored the crucial equalizer as part of a manic 12 minutes into the second half when the Reds found the back of the net three times, but his impact on the game extended well beyond his goal.

Almost immediately, it hit like a tornado and wreaked havoc on Villarreal’s right flank. In 15 minutes he had attempted more shots than anyone else Liverpool player and had managed more touches than Jota in the entire first period. His explosive display brought his Liverpool team-mates to life and left-back Andy Robertson spoke of the “huge difference” he made to the game in his post-match press conference.

“He’s a special, special player,” said the Scotland international. “With his talent, his will to win and everything, he just fits in perfectly with us. He came and made a big difference, he played down the left flank and started pushing them back, taking the ball and dribbling, it was a really good half of him.

Diaz’s performance also stunned large sections of the Spanish media. Jordi Arches from Mundo Deportivo explained that the Liverpool attacker “ended the dream, walked onto the pitch and changed everything” while Feargal Brennan was out Soccer Spain Diaz felt “Liverpool night to day” turned.

“From the first moment he appeared on the pitch, Luis Diaz tried to change the goalkeeper’s dynamic. He didn’t come off unscathed from the four internships he attempted on the left wing against the solidity of Juan Foyth, but he wasn’t satisfied. His attacking mobility gives them an opportunity to start the comeback,” Brennan said.

The quality of Diaz can be seen in his underlying numbers from the night. No player was more successful at dribbling (four) or attempting more shots (four), while only Naby Keita was making more progressive carries (five).

Initially, there was very little space for Liverpool’s attacker

Aside from his threat on the ball, he was also instrumental in creating openings for Liverpool’s other attackers who had been smothered by the hosts in the first half. Being careful not to give the Colombian too much space to punish them, he very quickly began to be pursued and closely marked by the home team.

And selflessly, Diaz often manipulated those situations with good moves, dragging defenders with him to create spaces for his Liverpool team-mates to exploit. We saw a good example of this in the run-up to his goal.

Diaz drags two defenders with him, creating space for Liverpool team-mates

First up, Diaz, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita are each tightly tagged in the Villarreal half. However, Diaz begins to retreat, pushing back Villarreal’s two defenders as they track his movement. This in turn creates an opening down the middle for Keita to receive a pass and combine with Mane.

While he wouldn’t have shown it publicly, Diaz likely would have been disappointed to find himself on the bench Tuesday night. However, his breakthrough second-half performance should surely mean he will avoid a similar disappointment at the Stade de France later this month.

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