Liverpool lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy when they last visited the Wanda Metropolitano in June last year. This time, they returned to face hosts Atletico Madrid in their Round of 16 first leg looking to gain an early advantage. They were unable to do so, as Atletico snatched a narrow 1-0 win, ensuring that Liverpool must now turn things around at Anfield.
The game started in dastardly fashion for the Reds when a set-piece error allowed Saul Niguez to put Atleti ahead in the 4th-minute. After taking the early lead, to nobody’s surprise, Atletico parked the bus & allowed Liverpool all the possession to try and break them. The Reds were unable to do that, succumbing to their second CL loss this season.
They enjoyed 72% possession but couldn’t get a single shot on target. That was a really disappointing performance, but this narrow loss isn’t the end of the world. Liverpool are ruthless at Anfield & should still turn things around in the second leg. But this still feels a drab homecoming in the stadium which gave them the sixth!
Liverpool Player Ratings
Jurgen Klopp (5.0) –
Klopp started out with his strongest possible XI but that early goal derailed his plans. His substitutions didn’t work out either as Liverpool looked weaker without Salah/Mane but perhaps he was being cautionary knowing a 1-0 defeat isn’t that bad.
Still, he should’ve encouraged his players to take more risks, attempt a few long-rangers or piled more bodies forward towards the end to get something out from this game. Simeone had his number for this one.
Alisson (6.0) –
Couldn’t really do anything to deny Saul’s close-range strike. But denies Morata with a commendable save in the 25th-minute. Didn’t have much else to deal with otherwise.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (4.5) –
His defensive fortitude will get tested today coming up against the Lemar/Lodi combo. Just couldn’t seem to get his crosses on target today. Whatever he tried was cleared away or overhit. Defensively he wasn’t the worst nor the best, being caught out of position at times. He was relentless trying to deliver something but completely lacked that special something today.
Virgil van Dijk (6.0) –
He faced up against an old foe in Morata today. Almost had a hand-in-mouth moment in the 25th when his sloppy pass almost allowed Morata to score. But otherwise, he was indomitable as ever in defence. Remained unbeaten aerially, made some clutch challenges to ensure Atleti didn’t get many more sniffs.
Joe Gomez (6.5) –
Gomez maintained composure under hostile territory admirably well. Put in a great cross for Salah’s chance early in the second half. Booked before the hour-mark for a rough challenge. Apart from that, he was almost faultless. Won most duels, stopped multiple attacks and distributed the ball really well. Perhaps LFC’s best defender today.
Andy Robertson (6.0) –
Robertson’s maintaining an explosive attitude down the left. Makes a crucial clearance to deny Atleti a second-goal in the 20th. Saw an ambitious attempt skidder wide before the half-hour mark. Displayed admirable work-rate & shut out Atleti’s attack through his side with effective defending.
Jordan Henderson (6.5) –
Hendo’s trying to calm things early on with assertive forward passes. Linked up pretty well with his team-mates but lacked that bite in the first half. Tried turning up his side’s heat after the break & almost snatched an equalizer with his shot glazing wide in the 73rd.
All of Liverpool’s best-attacking moves came through him & he worked the hardest to get something done, but just not able to break Atleti’s shell. Subbed after seemingly suffering another knock.
Gini Wijnaldum (6.0) –
Gini’s trying to drive his side forward by showcasing lively forward movement. Getting more involved in attack trying to stitch together moves. But he lacked any penetrativeness in the final third, being unable to create anything prolific for his side. Simmered out towards the end.
Fabinho (5.0) –
Started the game in horrendous fashion when the opening corner caught him off guard, with his botched clearance falling for Saul to score. Regained his normal self afterwards, regaining possession & stopping attacks with timely tackles. Fabinho struggled to contain Atleti’s counter-attacks at times, but mostly protected his defence. Had no creative impact whatsoever.
Mohamed Salah (4.5) –
Salah will have to come up with something special to break this defence. Being frustrated early on with stringent marking. Manages to score with a sleek finish in the 26th, but it’s ruled out. Struck an easy shot straight at a defender in the 36th. Then powered a header barely wide in the 52nd.
He glided into the most dangerous areas today & received the best chances but ended up wasting them. A pretty disappointing outing before being subbed.
Sadio Mane (4.0) –
Mane’s first start coming back from injury. After being ineffective almost throughout the half, gets himself booked in the 41st with a blatant elbow. Subbed at half-time after a poor performance & almost suffering a second yellow. Maybe not fully fit yet.
Roberto Firmino (4.0) –
Bobby’s trying to drag defenders out of position by drifting around the attacking-third, but unable to pull anything off initially. Despite working hard, he was unable to unlock Atleti’s defence. Couldn’t get a proper shot out and was ousted by Atleti’s stubborn defender. An uncharastically underwhelming away day for the Brazilian.
Divock Origi (5.5) –
Liverpool’s super-sub was brought on to change things up. Dragged Oblak out from his goal at the 60th, but also dragged the ball outside trying to be fancy. Got into a few promising positions at times, but just couldn’t get his final delivery right.
Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain (5.5) –
Ox came on to add a bit more penetrativeness to Liverpool’s game but just got kinda lost against the heaping Atleti defence’s pressure.
James Milner (N/R) –
Assumed the captaincy mantle in the last fifteen minutes or so, but unable to inspire his side despite putting in a few encouraging crosses.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Gomez was for me Liverpool’s best player today as he showcased incredible composure for a youngster, but Saul’s all-round brilliant performance deserves today’s MOTM.