Liverpool 0 - 2 Atalanta
Atalanta: Ilicic 60’, Gosens 64’
It’s not an ideal line-up, but there wasn’t really much Kloppo could do. Joel Matip is the sole carryover in defense, with Williamses Neco and Rhys coming in. Kostas Tsimikas joins them at leftback. In midfield we have 3 players who did the full 90 on Sunday—James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Curtis Jones. And up top we see the return of Mohamed Salah, playing along side Sadio Mané and Divock Origi.
Although a win definitely puts Liverpool through (and probably wins the group as well), 9 points from the first 3 group matches has allowed Klopp to gamble a bit. And if things have gone badly wrong, he has 5 subs—including the attacking options Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota, and Takumi Minamino—to bring off the bench.
There is a moment of silence for the departed legend Diego Maradona. He might not have had a direct connection to either club, but if you’re a football fan, you can’t help but feel connected to the phenomenal Argentinian.
The senior players aren’t doing much to protect the yutes on the backline so far. First Mo Salah nearly sold Rhys Williams down the river with a bad back pass. A moment later Matip caused a spot of bother with a poor attempt to play a ball through the lines.
Atalanta nearly open the scoring after beating the offside trap down the flank. Alisson comes up with a big intervention at the near post. A moment later Neco Williams is caught in possession, but the ensuing shot is fired just wide. This will definitely be a trial by fire for this relatively inexperienced defensive unit.
Liverpool have the majority of possession in the opening 20 minutes, but have yet to create a single shot. So far it’s about as frustrating, disjointed, and defensively vulnerable as you’d expect.
The ref doesn’t seem to think Liverpool players can be fouled. Cool, cool. Within the last several minutes Tsimikas, Mané, Salah, Milner, and Origi have all been cleared out in dangerous positions around the area, but no calls on any of them. Can’t wait for the inevitable soft as fuck pen to be given against us.
...Or a stonewall pen not given against us? Welp, I guess it’s gonna be a battle tonight. Knives out, lads.
(Maybe not quite as stonewall on the second viewing, still...this ref ain’t giving shit).
Two minutes before halftime, and Liverpool manager their first shot! It comes from a pretty clever set piece that falls to Mo Salah in the box. Unfortunately it was Mo’s right boot, and not his left, and his blasted shot was always rising over the bar.
As the halftime whistle blows, one positive is that the young, makeshift defense is keeping this dangerous Atalanta side out. However, it’s taking quite the team effort to do so, and as a result it’s difficult for Liverpool to get out and onto the front foot.
Curtis Jones starts the second half with one of the few meaningful presses of the match, chasing down the keeper and forcing his long clearance to go out of bounds for a Liverpool throw. Already better.
Liverpool haven’t needed to call on Alisson too much so far, but he has been ready when called upon. In the opening 5 minutes of the second half, he’s already needed to be quick off his line to clear up an otherwise dangerous situation.
Goal. Fuck, that feels like a sucker punch. Especially since it was just before Klopp was due to make some changes. It’s a good cross to the back post, and a good first time finish. And it’s 1-0 to the visitors.
Klopp finally gets the changes he wanted after the goal. Four changes to be exact. Andy Robertson comes on for Tsimikas, Roberto Firmino for Mo, Diogo Jota for Divock, and Fabinho for Gini.
Goal. Ooof. It’s another cross to the back post, but this time it’s nodded down for a wide open Gosens to finish.
The Reds look better, generally, since the subs, but still don’t particularly look like scoring.
Klopp makes one last roll of the dice with 5 minutes to play, bringing on Minamino for Matip. I’m not sure an extra attacker will really help though. The lads really seem to be uncharacteristically out of ideas this evening.
It sucks, but Liverpool are allowed to lose matches. They still have two cracks at qualification, and a win in either match will probably be enough. The lads who rested tonight needed a rest. Klopp took a gamble, hoping to be ready for the early Saturday kickoff. If he (and the lads) can engineer a win on Saturday and still qualify from the group, it’ll be worth it.