Liverpool 2 - 3 Atletico Madrid
Reds: Wijnaldum 43’, Firmino 94’
Atleti: Llorente 97’, 105+1, Morata 120+1
Jordan Henderson is back! The captain comes in for the struggling Fabinho. Hopefully Hendo can return to the stellar form he had before his short injury layoff, because Liverpool will need all hands (or feet) on deck tonight. The math is simple enough for the Reds: a 1-0 win takes us to extra time and potentially penalties. Any win by two goals or more sees us through to the next round. And if Atletico score, Liverpool will need at least three. While we all believe in the power of Anfield, that’s a mountain we’d all prefer not to have to climb. But then again, this tension is precisely why Champions League knockout football is so spectacular.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Georginio Wijnaldum join the captain in midfield. The back five and front three are as expected. A trip to the quarterfinals awaits the winner of the tie. Can Liverpool do enough to overturn their first leg deficit?
So, keeping a clean sheet is key to going through tonight...and Atletico nearly got in straight from the kickoff. With a better pass (it was a bit behind him), Diego Costa would have likely gotten an early opener for the visitors.
It’s a good response from Liverpool, with the home side immediately getting a foot on the ball and getting into dangerous positions. Within the opening five minutes, the Reds manage something they didn’t for the entire first leg: a shot on target. The header from Wijnaldum is more or less straight at Oblak, but it’s a promising start (after the admittedly shaky start).
Fifteen minutes in and Liverpool are really pinning Atleti in. This is the best the attack has looked in weeks, with a lot of quick one-touch play in and around the box. One of these exchanges led to a good chance from Ox, but Oblak was equal to the low, hard effort.
As we approach the half-an-hour mark things have settled a bit. Liverpool are still dominating possession, but have slowed the tempo a little. It looks like we’re in for a long fight tonight, folks.
Not that anyone was questioning him, but Oblak is showing his class tonight. He just denied Roberto Firmino at point blank range, and yeah, it’ll take something special to beat him tonight.
GOAL! GINI DOES IT AGAIN! Just before the stroke of halftime, the Dutch international latches onto a cross from Ox, and turned it home, placing it perfectly in the corner past an outstretched Oblak!
The halftime whistle blows, concluding an absolutely dominant first half. The Reds had over two-thirds of the possession, and are out-shooting the visitors 11-2 (4-0 on target). First seconds aside, Atleti didn’t show much besides a 5 or so minute stint in our half around the 30-minute mark. I don’t expect them to come out of their shell unless (hopefully until!) they go down a second goal. Liverpool are back in this one at halftime. Now they just need to go find a winner (and then hold on for dear life).
Liverpool begin the second half where they left off the first—complete control and dangerous in possession in the attacking third. Mohamed Salah gets in behind early, but cannot direct his shot to either side of Oblak.
Ten minutes into the second half, Diego Costa is hooked, much to Anfield’s delight.
Adrian is tested for the first time of the night, and he manages. Barely. The experienced Spanish keeper spills the first effort from range, and is just able to smother the follow-up effort.
Since the Costa sub, Atleti have started coming out of their shell just a little bit. They’re pressing higher up the pitch, which is leaving room on the break, if we can find it.
CLOSE! Liverpool looked for all the world like they had scored another. Andy Robertson headed from close range, but hit the underside of the bar instead of the back of the net.
With 10 minutes of regulation to go, Klopp makes his first sub, bringing on James Milner for Oxlade-Chamberlain. Ox had a great night, but was visibly tiring as the second half wore on.
Mane tries for the spectacular, with an overhead effort that goes well over the target. It’s easy to second guess on replay, but perhaps the better idea would have been to lay it off for Salah. On the other hand, it would have been amazing if he had scored it. On the third hand Salah just blazed one over the bar a moment later so what do I know?
Liverpool survive a possible heart-breaker with the last kick of regular time. Trent Alexander-Arnold gives away a free kick out wide, and Atleti turn in the ensuing free kick. However, the defensive line was spot-on, and Madrid were offside. To extra time we go.
Klopp makes one last roll of the dice, bringing on Takumi Minamino for Bobby.
GOAL! AND IT’S BOBBY!! Firmino finally breaks his Anfield duck for the season! He’s certainly spurned some chances tonight, including on the play where he actually scored. His original header comes off the inside of the bar, but the rebound falls right back to his feet, and he doesn’t miss an empty net from there.
Goal. Wow. Didn’t even get a chance to celebrate Bobby’s goal. A poor clearance from Adrian leaves the defense exposed, but he really should have done better with Llorente’s shot from distance.
Goal. Llorente. Again. Almost identical to the first, other than Adrian’s poor clearance.
If it wasn’t obvious before now, the difference between Alisson and Adrian is significant. Adrian is a quality back up. But We’d be going through if Alisson were fit. As it stands, we’ll need an Anfield miracle in these last 15 minutes. Klopp brings on Fabinho and Divock Origi for Hendo and Gini.
Goal. Morata adds to our misery right at the death. Goodnight.
Liverpool did everything right to keep the tie alive, and to put themselves in position to go through. Unfortunately, a couple of soft goals did us in. That was always the risk going into tonight. You can’t fault the overall effort. We’ll “just” have to be content with winning #6 last year, the Super Cup and Club World Cup this year, and ending our 30-year wait for #19 (assuming the world doesn’t end first).