Luis Diaz changed the game for Liverpool on Tuesday night.
Just when it looked as though the Reds were imploding in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Villarreal, their January signing saved the day with an electrifying performance.
Truth be told, everything looked set for Liverpool to not even need Diaz’s assistance off the bench as they entered the game with a 2-0 aggregate lead from a first leg in which Villarreal didn’t even notch a shot on target.
Diaz comes on vs Villarreal
But the Merseyside club quickly had to smart up when their hosts rushed into a 2-0 lead of their own, astonishingly drawing the tie level courtesy of goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin.
As such, there was suddenly the very real possibility that Unai Emery’s men could either dump Liverpool out of the competition or kill off the game to ensure that it went to extra time and penalties.
However, thankfully for the Reds, neither of those doomsday scenarios came to pass with Jurgen Klopp making the inspired decision to swap Diogo Jota for Diaz as they consolidated at half-time.
And although Diaz has been scintillating since the first moment he pulled on that famous red jersey, he’s arguably never given a better performance for the club than the one he delivered at Villarreal.
Villarreal 2-3 Liverpool Match Reaction (Football Terrace)
Diaz drops MOTM performance
Everything the 25-year-old touched seemed to turn to gold with his sizzling pace, intricate footwork and indefatigable energy roughing up Villarreal in a way that Liverpool had failed to do before that point.
Therefore, it couldn’t have been more fitting that it was Diaz who drew the scores level again on the night, firing Liverpool into a 4-2 aggregate lead by heading home from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross.
And by the time that Sadio Mane completed the turnaround by capitalising Gerónimo Rulli’s error, the cherry had been placed upon the cake of a game in which Diaz bagged the Man of the Match award.
Diaz takes it all in
Not bad going for a substitute, huh? In fact, when the final whistle blew at the Estadio de la Cerámica, it couldn’t have been any clearer what the occasion meant to the Colombian international.
While it marked a third Champions League final in five seasons for some members of the Liverpool squad, Diaz was soaking up the emotions of reaching his very first – and having played a huge role in his club getting there, too.
It’s no wonder, then, that fans are loving footage of Diaz taking everything in at full-time with a moment of reflection and salute to the crowd with some even thinking that they can see a tear in his eye.
But tears or no tears, the moral of the story is that it was a beautiful pause amongst the celebrations where Diaz realised what he’d just achieved and you can check it out for yourself down below:
Luis Díaz went from playing in a remote village in rural Colombia to the Champions League final in 7 years.pic.twitter.com/gfP89qFx6x— The Tactical Times (@Tactical_Times) May 3, 2022
Take a bow, Luis, take a bow.
The perfect player for Liverpool
You really do get the sense that everything means so much to this Liverpool squad and that they stand together as a tightly-knit group that feels every sinew of both the highs of victory and lows of defeat.
It’s taken mere weeks for every football fan and their dog to be able to tell that Diaz is not only perfect for Liverpool in the way that he plays, but also in the attitude and mentality that he brings to the team.
After all, Diaz’s journey to the crazy world of professional football is certainly an inspirational one and even more so now that it’s led him to a Champions League final.
The Reds still have a long way to go if they’re to win a seventh European title and perhaps even the quadruple, but they’re far more likely to do so now that they have Diaz in their dressing room. What a player.