The Reds leave themselves a lot of work to do on the return leg, after conceding an early goal in Madrid.
Atletico Madrid 1 – 0 Liverpool
Atletico: Niguez 4’
Liverpool run out a strong side, arguably their strongest. Fabinho returns to the starting XI; although the Brazilian midfielder has struggled to return to form since coming back from injury, Liverpool are at their best when he is at his best. Captain Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum join him in midfield. Elsewhere, the front three are the front three, and the back five are the back five. The Reds should be in for a fight against a hard-to-breakdown Atletico Madrid side, especially in this first away leg. If Liverpool can get an away goal or two, it would go a long way toward advancing into the quarterfinals.
Goal. A nightmare start for Liverpool! Some poor defending by Andy Robertson and Sadio Mane leads to a poor clearance from Virgil van Dijk, putting a ball out for a corner. Atletico get a fortunate bounce off Fabinho from the corner, and slot the loose ball. Liverpool have dug themselves a hole early.
It’s a good response from the visitors in the 10 or so minutes after the goal. The black-clad Reds have gotten on the ball and threatened to get behind a couple of times, but so far lacking that final ball. Trent Alexander-Arnold in particular has overcooked a few crosses, letting the hosts off the hook after an otherwise promising attack.
Van Dijk is having a rare off night, and we’d all really appreciate it if he went back to being the world’s best defender. Please and thank you. He just cleared a ball directly into the path of a Atletico attacker, but thankfully Alisson came up big with the point-blank save.
You know things aren’t going well when your first shot comes after a half an hour. From Andy Robertson. From outside of the box. With his right foot.
Things get chippy toward the end of the half, with Sadio Mane and Angel Correa each getting booked for worthy yellow card challenges. Then Atletico try to get Mane sent off for contesting a 50/50 header, which is probably a pretty good preview for what is to come in the second half. Liverpool have been far from the better side, but a goal in the second half would probably be enough to give the Reds a very good result, all things considered.
Klopp makes a rare halftime sub, bringing on Divock Origi for Mane. To be fair, Atleti were doing everything in their power to get Sadio sent off, so probably a good move. The Reds begin the half as they ended the last, lots of huffing and puffing but never threatening to blow the house down. A Salah header flashes wide of the target, and that’s about as much as we create in the opening ten minutes of the half.
Joe Gomez picks up a yellow for the tamest of challenges, though it’s probably more from an accumulation of fouls. In the meantime, Origi seems to have forgotten where the byline is.
As we approach the 70th minute, Liverpool look bereft of answers. The Reds played right into Atleti’s hands, and this dog of a game is the result. Klopp responds by taking…Mo Salah out? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain come on in his stead…and Liverpool immediately create their best chance of the evening, as Henderson flashes a shot just wide of the target. So what do I know?
Because tonight hasn’t been bad enough, it looks like Hendo picked up a knock. The trainers are looking at his ankle, and James Milner comes on in his place.
And now Klopp goes into the book after Simeone has been in the ref’s ear all night. Cool.
I almost forgot what it was like to lose. I don’t like it. Nope. Not at all. Liverpool, failing to get an away goal, will need to be at it on the return leg. In the meantime, I almost feel sorry for West Ham. Almost.