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 By David Usher

Alberto Moreno's lack of discipline costs Liverpool first leg at Villarreal

After looking so comfortable for so long, Liverpool will be kicking themselves for conceding a goal on the counterattack with virtually the last kick of the game in Thursday's Europa League semifinal first-leg loss at Villarreal. That one irresponsible moment aside, this was a fine away performance against opposition who never looked anywhere near as impressive as their reputation suggested they would be.

Perhaps Jurgen Klopp gave them too much respect, not specifically by not starting with Daniel Sturridge, but by not introducing him at all, even after it became clear that there was little to fear from the Spanish side. Liverpool will feel confident they can turn around this 1-0 deficit in the second leg at Anfield, but they've made their task more difficult than it should have been. Then again, they rarely do things the easy way, do they?

Leg 1
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Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):

GK Simon Mignolet, 7: The Belgian bounced back from his error against Newcastle at the weekend with a fine save in the first half and followed it up with an even better one late in the second. He was left exposed for Villarreal's winner and could not have done anything to prevent it.

DF Nathaniel Clyne, 7: The England man put in a real shift up and down the right flank and was always available as an outlet. He continually got forward into good positions but his delivery was not always what it ought to be, although the lack of a striker did not help him. Defended very well against danger man Denis Suarez and was calm in possession.

DF Dejan Lovren, 7: Did his job well and could do nothing about the winning goal. Strong in the air, cool in possession and positionally sound.

DF Kolo Toure, 7: Flawless for 91 minutes as he used all his experience and positional nous to great effect until he was caught out by a terrific ball from Bruno Soriano for the winning goal.

DF Alberto Moreno, 6: A mixed bag from the energetic Spaniard. Lots of running and tenacious play, but far too often he went missing, which allowed Villarreal to attack the space he vacated, not least when he was needlessly sucked into the centre deep into stoppage time for the winning goal. Minutes earlier he had been unlucky with a brilliant run from the halfway line that ended with a shot that grazed the post, although had he squared it, Jordon Ibe was all alone in the box.

MF Lucas Leiva, 8: Given a job to do in front of the back four and did that job just about as well as it's possible to do it. He made numerous valuable interceptions and rarely wasted a pass all night.

Alberto Moreno demonstrated great energy throughout Thursday's loss, but his lack of discipline cost Liverpool.

MF Joe Allen, 8: Should have scored early on when he side-footed straight at the keeper from 10 yards instead of just putting his foot through the ball, but that moment aside, this was an excellent performance from the Welsh midfielder. He got through an awful lot of work closing down the opposition and helping to win back possession, and, as with Lucas, was efficient in his passing.

MF James Milner, 8: Another fine showing from the captain, particularly in the first half when he seemed to be everywhere. Produced a great pass to create an opening for Roberto Firmino that saw the Brazilian denied by the post. Milner has been in great form of late and Liverpool will need more of the same from him next week if they are to turn this tie around.

MF Adam Lallana, 7: Disciplined in his defensive duties and had his moments in attack, too. It was from his cross that Allen should have scored early on, and the pair combined again after the break when Allen released Lallana through on goal where he was hauled down by Eric Bailly. It would have been a penalty and a red card for the defender had the linesman not incorrectly adjudged Lallana to be offside.

MF Philippe Coutinho, 5: Never got into the flow of the game and was wasteful with a couple of shooting opportunities around the box. Replaced at half-time after complaining of feeling unwell. If he performs anywhere near his best next week, Liverpool will still be confident of progressing to the final.

FW Roberto Firmino, 6: Selected ahead of Sturridge, the Brazilian did little to justify his manager's decision. He worked tirelessly in closing down the Villarreal defence and showed some lovely touches on occasion, but too often he was nowhere near the penalty area when Liverpool attacked. He also was frustratingly sloppy in possession at times. He did go close to breaking the deadlock in the second half when he collected a pass from Milner and hit a low drive that was tipped onto the post by the goalkeeper.


MF Jordon Ibe, 5: Replaced Coutinho at half-time but produced a frustrating display. Was given a severe telling off from Klopp after one sloppy piece of play and then got another from his teammates shortly after after losing possession in a dangerous area.

FW Christian Benteke, NR: Sent on for the closing stages. Won a header or two and almost got on the end of a dangerous cross from the right wing. Might yet have a big part to play next week if Liverpool are chasing a goal late on.

Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.


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