Luckless Liverpool Lament Lacklustre Keeping
Champions Liverpool bowed out of the Champions after a 3-2 after extra defeat to Atletico Madrid at Anfield.
Georginio Wijnaldum’s goal in normal time saw the Reds win 1-0 in normal time but, despite Firmino’s goal doubling their lead in extra time, two howlers from stand in keeper Adrian allowed replacements Marcos Llorente(2) and Alvaro Morata score to send the blessed Spaniards through, who had their goalkeeper Jan Oblak to thank.
A rip roaring start from the Reds was considered by many to be a must, but it was the visitors that had the first sight of goal. Joao Felix’s through ball sent Diego Costa in behind the hosts defence — with Virgil Van Dijk keeping him onside — but the Spanish international’s shot went harmlessly wide of his compatriot Adrian’s goal.
Patiently moving the ball, Liverpool manoeuvred the ball to Trent Alexander Arnold and the right backs cross met the head of Wijnaldum and Oblak was forced into the first save of the night, albeit a routine stop.
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain was one of Jurgen Klopp’s alterations to his starting team and the Englishman added the impetus and spark so sorely missing in the first leg, as Liverpool began to up the ante. First, the midfielder left Atleti left back Renan Lodi for dead with a powerful burst and then the former Arsenal man forced Oblak into another save with a long range strike.
The Reds’ pressure won them consecutive corners and they claimed for a penalty when Andy Robertson’s corner was flicked on by Sadio Mané and via a deflection onto the hand of Felipe. VAR was consulted, but the decision not to award a penalty was the correct one.
After a decent spell of Atletico pressure, Liverpool flexed their attacking muscles again when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross field ball found Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian outmuscled Lodi — bouncing him to the floor — before finding Sadio Mané with a pass. However, the Senegalese spurned a good chance when his shot from the edge of the box gently trickled into Oblak’s hands.
Another chance came soon after when Alexander Arnold’s arching cross found Firmino inside the six yard box but the Slovenian denied the Brazilian when he ought to have done better.
The incessant pressure eventually bore goal scoring fruit in the 43rd minute. Oxlade Chamberlain — who, along with Salah, was the Reds standout performer in the first half — dug out a cross from the right byline that the unmarked Wijnaldum powerfully headed into the ground and past Oblak for a deserved lead which they held going into the break.
The defending Champions started the second half with the same attacking intent and Salah once again worked Oblak after Wijnaldum’s clipped pass saw the Egyptian run in behind.
The Liverpool number 11 was really beginning to influence proceedings and his incisive through ball found Oxlade Chamberlain in the box. With more time than he realised, the Englishman rushed his shot and it flew over.
The 26 year old tried his luck from distance from distance moments later and the beleaguered Oblak was forced into another smart save.
The Slovenian was in inspired form as he thwarted Firmino from an Alexander Arnold, with his counterpart, Adrian, also making a stop moment later, denying Felix and then substitute Marcos Llorente from the subsequent rebound.
The Reds had well and truly thrown the gauntlet down and were inches from doubling their lead when Robertson headed Salah’s deflected right footed shot off the bar.
An almost ten minute lull in the game was ended when a short corner routine saw Alexander Arnold cut back to Robertson at the edge of the box, but the birthday boy drove his shot over the bar.
The first change for the Reds came on the 80 minute mark; with James Milner replacing Oxlade Chamberlain.
Milner almost made an immediate impersonation when his cross found Wijnaldum, whose miscued header was bicycle kicker over the bar by Mané.
Salah came close again after he beat two would be tacklers in the box and fired over, but Atletico’s goal continued living a charmed life and the Spaniards held out to take the tie to extra time.
Oblak was worked soon into extra time, denying Wijnaldum. But the Slovenian was beaten for the second time not long after.
Finally, Firmino netted his first Anfield goal of the season after his effort — a header — hit the post but he was alive to rebound home.
The Reds joyousness was short lived, however, as an Adrian — who was a mere spectator for the majority of the game — howler saw
Llorente’s tame shot from distance rolled into the corner, with the Spaniard extremely slow to dive and save what should have been a gimme. The onus was back on Liverpool as the goal would put the visitors through on away goals.
The visitors scored their second of the night in an almost identical scenario when Llorente curled past Adrian from outside the box after a counter attack that stemmed from the referee missing a clear foul on Wijnaldum.
Klopp rolled the dice in search of goals and turned to Divock Origi and Fabinho, in place of Jordan Henderson and Wijnaldum.
Pushing for goals, the reds left themselves exposed and replacement Morata’s goal sealed the win.
Liverpool team: Adrian; Alexander Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Oxlade Chamberlain; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Substitutions: Minamino for Firmino, Milner for Oxlade Chamberlain, Fabinho for Henderson, Origi for Wijnaldum.