Robbie Keane scored his second Champions League goal as Liverpool drew 1-1 with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night. But Simao’s late goal for the hosts gave them a share of the spoils and leaves the two sides with identical records after three group matches.
SkySports Match Report
Liverpool surrendered their 100 per cent start to this season’s UEFA Champions League but remain on course for a place in the last 16 following a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid.
Robbie Keane put Liverpool in front in the first half at an atmospheric Vicente Calderon, but Atletico grabbed a deserved point in the second 45 minutes as Simao Sabrosa maintained his side’s place at the top of Group D.
Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool took the lead on 14 minutes as striker Keane breached the Atletico defence to collect a Steven Gerrard pass and stylishly slot past Leo Franco.
The home side, who offered little threat in the first half, were claiming offside but Danish referee Claus Bo Larsen – who, aided and abetted by his assitants, made a number of incorrect decisions – waved away the protests.
After the interval, Atletico emerged a more determined side and were unfortunate not to draw level as Giourkas Seitaridis had an equaliser disallowed by another dubious offside flag, and Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina tipped a Simao effort onto a post.
However, Simao – who was once a transfer target of Liverpool – then netted the goal his performance merited as he controlled a pass from Diego Forlan and turned away from Jamie Carragher before firing past Reina with seven minutes remaining.
Atletico were given a three-match stadium ban in Europe and fined by Uefa following crowd disturbances and accusations of racism during their Champions League home match against Marseille.
The Primera Liga outfit have appealed against the punishment, which is why Wednesday’s match was able to go ahead at the Vicente Calderon and not at least 300 kilometres away from Madrid.
However, there was no obvious repeat of those crowd disturbances or racist chanting during the clash, which saw Liverpool quickly settle into their stride.
Benitez’s troops, unbeaten in their last 15 matches, could barely have asked for an easier opening 45 minutes as they took an early lead through Keane before comfortably containing a toothless Atletico.
Keane’s goal came not long after young Atletico midfielder Ignacio Camacho had headed over the first chance of the match following a Simao free-kick.
Liverpool captain Gerrard created the chance with a superb pass through for Keane, who beat the Atletico offside trap before coolly slotting low past Franco.
That was just the start Liverpool would have been hoping for and Gerrard and Xabi Alonso both then tried their luck from distance before Keane spurned a decent opening to double Liverpool’s lead.
At the other end a much-changed Atletico, who had lost their previous three league matches against Sevilla, Barcelona and arch rivals Real Madrid, looked devoid of ideas going forward.
The hosts finally gave their fans something to get excited about in the 40th minute when former Manchester United striker Forlan unleashed a 25-yard drive that flew just wide of Jose Reina’s far post. Aside from that effort though, the Liverpool custodian, one of four Spanish players in the Liverpool line-up, had precious little to do before the break.
Atletico coach Javier Aguirre, under pressure following three successive league defeats, decided it was time to change things around at the break and he sent on star striker Sergio Aguero for former Liverpool player Luis Garcia.
That change immediately appeared to give Atletico a lift as they twice came close to an equaliser after the break.
The first opening saw Seitaridis pick up a pass from Forlan on the far side of the area before firing in a shot that flew into the far corner of the net.
However, Seitaridis was left with his head in his hands – along with the majority of the stadium – as he noticed the offside flag had incorrectly gone up.
From an almost identical position moments later Simao then drilled in a shot which Reina brilliantly helped onto the post and then gathered at the second attempt as Liverpool rode their luck.
Reina could do little about the goal that brought Atletico back on level terms in the 83rd minute however.
Simao was left in acres of space on the far side of the area and, after Forlan had picked him out, he drilled a low left-footed shot past the diving Reina to level the scores up at 1-1.
That goal set the stadium rocking and gave Atletico a huge boost, and Miguel then tested Reina with a well-struck volley.
Liverpool could have silenced the home crowd in the 89th minute though when substitute Ryan Babel sent a diving header just wide of the Atletico goal from close range.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Dossena, Mascherano, Alonso (Lucas 75), Benayoun, Gerrard (Babel 61), Riera, Keane (Kuyt 53).
Subs not used: Cavalieri, Darby, Aurelio, Pennant.
Booked: Arbeloa, Riera.
Goal: Keane (14)
Atletico: Franco, Seitaridis, Antonio Lopez, Dominguez, Perea, Simao, Luis Garcia (Aguero 45), Camacho (Raul Garcia), Maniche, Forlan, Sinama-Pongolle (Cuevas Miguel).
Subs not used: Bernabe, Hetinga, Pernia, Assuncao.
Goal: Simao (83)