Liverpool FC 2 - 0 Atletico Madrid
Reds: Jota 13’, Mané 21’, Player XX’
Away Team: Player XX’, Player XX’, Player XX’ (Header 5)
Although tonight is much more of a “must win” for Atletico, there’s a big reward for earning all three points tonight. After the AC Milan-Porto match ended 1-1, Liverpool can win the group outright tonight with a win. It would also be great to give Diego Simeone another reason to run away from any “falseness” after the match.
As for the lineup, Kloppo went about as strong as he possibly can. Kostas Tsimikas gets a surprise nod over Andy Robertson. Fabinho makes a very welcomed return to the six, and Thiago is on the bench. Up top, Roberto Firmino has been dropped for Diogo Jota, though it’s likely that the Brazilian will feature later tonight.
The opening few minutes are quite cagey, with both sides not wanting to make the first mistake. Of course, this suits Liverpool down to the ground. They could do with a match where nothing much of note happens.
GOAL! Well, nothing of note except Diogo Jota doing what he does, scoring headers like a true center forward. Trent Alexander-Arnold put the cross on a plate, and Jota timed his run to perfection.
Fifteen minutes in and the ref—Danny Makkelie from the Netherlands—has already issued two yellow cards (take note, Premier League refs). The first was a well-earned “professional” foul by Mario Hermoso to prevent Mo Salah from going through on goal, and the second was a bit more curious after Sadio Mané appeared to be on the receiving end of an Angel Correa challenge. Sadio was not too pleased, to say the least!
If Liverpool started this match a bit slow, they have been on top since the goal, really stretching Atletico thin in wave after wave of attack.
GOAL!! And once again, Liverpool make it 2-0 early against Atletico Madrid. Mané does fantastically well to shrug off several challenges, before passing it off to Henderson, who in turn picks out Trent. Trent lines up a shot, but ends up with an assist after Sadio gets a final, decisive touch to it. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, hopefully this 2-0 lead will stick.
Atletico respond really well to the second goal, which is becoming a bit of an annoying habit. They immediately put the Reds under a great deal of pressure, but the Reds withstand this response much better than in the reverse fixture. The addition of Fabinho and subtraction of Griezmann probably helps.
Meanwhile, the ref is absolutely going to end up sending Mané off at some point. Probably for “simulation” when he’s actually been mauled by an Atletico defender.
RED CARD! What was I saying about this ref? Never a bad thing, surely! He sends Felipe after a nasty challenge on...wait for it, Sadio Mané. Felipe prevented Sadio from starting a counter by going in studs first into the back of his calf. Atletico now have 3 players on yellows as well, including Luis Suarez for dissent. It has gotten a bit “chippy” you could say.
Well, that was an eventful first half! So much for “not much of note” happening! And nice to see Atletico’s brand of shithousery being properly punished.
Klopp has an interesting decision to make regarding Mané. On one hand the Senegalese attacker has caused Atletico all sorts of trouble, including the incident that put the visitors a man down. On the other, he looks nailed-on for a second yellow. Surely keeping all 11 men on the pitch has to be a priority when we’re 45 minutes away from qualifying for the knockouts.
Well, Klopp right my mind and made the smart move: taking Mané off for Bobby Firmino. Sadio must be furious, but at least he got his goal first. Regardless, Liverpool start the half on the attack, and Joel Matip nearly gets a rare assist, but Jota was just offside. And then Matip is denied a rare goal because the goal was just in the wrong place. Unlucky.
Speaking of unlucky, it appeared that Luis Suarez pulled one back with a shot from distance, but it was chalked off for being offside. And then he immediately got hooked for Herrera.
On the hour mark, Klopp makes his second sub, bringing on Thiago for Fabinho, which is just an amazing thing to write.
A bit more concerning that Firmino has to come off just 25 minutes after coming on, replaced by Divock Origi. He doesn’t appear to be limping, but he’s shaking his head disappointed, like he picked up a knock. Hopefully it’s just a precaution and nothing serious. Takumi Minamino also come on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
With 15 minutes to play, Liverpool have largely had the run of the park, albeit without creating much of note. Although Mohamed Salah hasn’t scored tonight, he’s been a constant thorn in the visitors’ sides, and I just wanted to make a note of that.
With seconds to go, Klopp brings off Alexander-Arnold and gives Nat Phillips a run out. What a lad.
Final Thoughts and Man of the Match
I know Jurgen Klopp would never “throw” a match. But if I were him I would strongly consider sending out a severely weakened side against Porto, and in doing so help book a ticket to the Europa League for Atletico. The next time we see Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid will be too soon, even if we got the best of them this time.
Regardless, Liverpool appeared to learn their lessons from their last time out against this side, and fully deserved to win tonight. And Liverpool are in the Round of 16, as Group B winners.
Liverpool’s Man of the Match Against Atletico Madrid
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Virgil van Dijk