Down But Not Out: Liverpool defeated in Audi Cup final on penalties
Liverpool 1 – 1 Atletico Madrid (Atletico win 5-4 on penalties)
Liverpool were denied their second pre-season trophy after suffering a penalty shoot-out defeat against Atletico Madrid in the final of the Audi Cup at the Allianz Arena.
Jurgen Klopp made nine changes to the side which defeated Bayern Munich 3-0 in the semi-final, with Phil Coutinho, Mo Salah, Daniel Sturridge and Alberto Moreno all absent from the squad.
It was a surprise to see Sadio Mane start after playing on Tuesday evening and he was joined by youngsters Ben Woodburn and Dominic Solanke in attack.
James Milner returned to captain the side from left-back, while Adam Lallana, Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum were named in midfield.
There was also a rare start for goalkeeper Danny Ward, who had not featured in any of Liverpool’s previous pre-season matches this year.
It was a cagey start from the Reds and they certainly didn’t start with the same tempo they did against Bayern Munich.
Both teams struggled to settle into the match until the 10th minute when Woodburn’s whipped ball into the box found the run of Solanke.
The youngsters combined well but Solanke was unable to direct his header into the far corner and Atletico regained possession.
Woodburn was in action just minutes later when he attempted to volley Lallan’s cross but it went miles to the right and didn’t cause the keeper any problems.
Despite a few chances from Liverpool, there wasn’t too much action in the opening 20 minutes but Sadio Mane was awarded the game’s first yellow card for a shirt pull in the opposition box.
The referee was clearly getting bored at the lack of action too so he awarded James Milner the game’s second yellow card for a soft challenge.
The game started to fizzle out but in the 33rd minute, Atletico found a spring in their step and after some quick passing on the edge of the Liverpool box, they found an opening.
Danny Ward made a strong initial save to tip the ball onto the cross bar but Keidi Bare was there to follow it up and his tap-in gave the Spaniards the lead.
The half fizzled out much the same way it started though and it was a relief to the supporters when they went down the tunnel at half-time.
After a fairly poor first half from both sides, it was no surprise Klopp made six changes at the half-time break as Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and new signing Andy Robertson all came on.
The substitutions almost made an immediate impact as Ryan Kent and Henderson combined to set up Solanke but the forward’s strike was blocked by the vast number of defenders in the box.
Atletico’s left-back Sergi Barjuan found himself in space just minutes afterwards but his first touch in the two-on-one situation let him down and Joe Gomez came over to cover.
Antoine Griezmann came on as a substitute for Atletico in the 60th minute and added some intensity to their attack but the Spaniards were content at sitting back.
Liverpool struggled to break them down and the second-half suffered a slow tempo much the same as the opening 45 minutes.
Fernando Torres came on in the 74th minute against his old club but it was Liverpool who still kept hold of much of the possession.
Divock Origi was the next player to attempt to put his mark on the game when he found space to shoot on the edge of the box.
However, his powerful drive went straight into the side netting and that summed up the majority of Liverpool’s performance.
Atletico were happy to see out the victory but Liverpool had other ideas and Divock Origi earned the Reds’ a penalty in the 83rd minute.
Roberto Firmino duly dispatched from the spot and drew the teams level meaning the cup would be decided through a penalty shoot-out.
Jordan Henderson missed his spot-kick for Liverpool and Atletico Madrid dispatched all five of those with ease which meant they were named Audi Cup champions in a lack-lustre final.