Luis Diaz lifted his Liverpool jersey to reveal a T-shirt with the words “Libertad Para Papa” (“Freedom for Papa”) after scoring a late equalizer Sunday in his first appearance for the team since his parents were kidnapped in his native Colombia.
Diaz bundled home a goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time to earn Liverpool a 1-1 draw at Luton in the Premier League and immediately sent a message for his father, who is still missing after the kidnapping by a guerrilla group, National Liberation Army, known as ELN.
Both of Diaz’s parents were taken by gunmen on motorbikes in the small Colombian town of Barrancas last weekend, though his mother was rescued within hours by police.
Diaz returned to training on Thursday after missing two Liverpool games and said he was ready to play against Luton, with manager Jurgen Klopp selecting him on the bench. He came on in the 83rd and spared Liverpool from the embarrassment of losing to one of the Premier League’s weakest teams, with his goal off Harvey Elliott’s cross appearing to come off his shoulder.
“It’s a wonderful moment,” Klopp said, “but it doesn’t change the situation. The most important thing is that his father gets released.”
Diaz was embraced by Luton’s players and his own teammates on the field after the game.
“It is wonderful he wanted to be here,” Klopp added. “That’s it, for us a super important goal and for him very important and emotional.”
Klopp said before the game that “positive” negotiations were taking place about the release of Diaz’s father.
Tahith Chong looked like being the match-winner for Luton, converting a finish at the end of an 80th-minute counterattack that came after a Liverpool corner.
It would have been a statement win for Luton in its first ever season in the Premier League, the kind of result its fans can only have dreamed of 10 years ago when the team was playing in English soccer’s non-leagues and facing financial ruin.
“Immensely proud of the whole club tonight,” Luton manager Rob Edwards said. “We pushed a top, top team all the way and we can take a lot of confidence from that.
“We have fought hard to come back from the depths to this position and we don’t want to give it up. We will fight hard for it and the players want it. We know it is a huge task, we are going up against giants but we are enjoying it and we want to compete as well.”
It could have been a spectacular save by Emi Martinez. In the end, the Argentina goalkeeper made a big error.
Aston Villa was already trailing 1-0 to Nottingham Forest when Martinez attempted to save midfielder Orel Mangala’s long-range shot with his outstretched left hand. He only succeeded in palming the ball back toward goal and over the line in the 47th minute.
That added to the fifth-minute opener by fullback Ola Aina from outside the area as Forest won 2-0 to extend its unbeaten record at the City Ground to eight league matches.
Villa six-match unbeaten run came to an end. A win could have lifted Unai Emery’s team into the top four.
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer