Liverpool fought hard but were unable to break Atletico Madrid down as they fell to a 1-0 defeat in their Champions League last-16 first-leg clash, after an early goal.
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Liverpool
Champions League Last 16, Wanda Metropolitano
February 18, 2020
Goals: Saul 4′
Alisson – 7 (out of 10)
In the battle of the world’s two best goalkeepers Alisson was the busiest early on, and after having little chance of keeping out Saul Niguez’s opener produced a big save to deny Alvaro Morata soon after.
He had almost nothing to do after that, and despite the result it should be considered another solid night for Liverpool’s No. 1.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 6
It was a difficult start for Alexander-Arnold where little seemed to go the way he intended, blundering a series of wayward crosses and slipping more than once; in fact, Joe Gomez provided the best delivery of the game.
The No. 66 certainly improved, though, and remained a key threat bombing down the right, but it wasn’t a display befitting of his blossoming reputation as one of the world’s best right-backs.
Joe Gomez – 7
Starting as part of Liverpool’s best back four in the Champions League for the first time since October, Gomez was arguably the most assured of Jurgen Klopp‘s back line.
His well-flighted cross from deep almost saw Mohamed Salah equalise with a header, but overall it was Gomez’s defensive work which deserves the praise.
Virgil van Dijk – 6
Van Dijk endured an uncharacteristically shaky start to the game, which fed into the lack of control throughout the back line, with one headed clearance into the path of Morata causing a problem.
Unsurprisingly made amends with a much stronger performance thereafter, though the damage was already done as it remains just one clean sheet in seven Champions League games for the Reds so far this season.
Andy Robertson – 7
With Alexander-Arnold struggling it seemed the onus was on Robertson to provide the creativity in the first half, but he was more often required in the defensive third, making a crucial clearance from Renan Lodi’s cross at 1-0.
Robertson soon settled into his usual routine as Liverpool pushed for a leveller, though, and there was little fault in his performance; overlapping ad nauseam, for Sime Vrsaljko, but lacking that final flourish.
Fabinho – 6
There remain signs of rust in Fabinho‘s game, and it was particularly noticeable with his loose passing throughout the first half, with a lack of composure seemingly forcing his hand to the detriment of possession.
Fabinho also found himself at odds with referee Szymon Marciniak’s…protective approach to the home side, which stymied the efficiency of his well-timed challenges.
Jordan Henderson – 6
Hailed by Saul ahead of the game as “the one that brings that team together,” Henderson took an all-out approach in midfield, freed in his more advanced role as the No. 8.
Forced off with a worrying injury late on, and the hope is he won’t require time on the sidelines as he is now so key.
Gini Wijnaldum – 6
Tactically vital as Liverpool continually penned Atletico backed, whether surging into space to cover for the wingers as they shifted inside or covering for Fabinho as he moved forward to provide a different option.
There were warranted calls for the introduction of Naby Keita, however, with the Guinean arguably providing a dynamism that Wijnaldum cannot in his instructed role.
Mohamed Salah – 7
Salah was the Reds’ most dangerous player throughout, and came closest to equalising in the first half with a snapshot that was, fortunately for Atletico, deflected over.
He pushed and pushed for another opening but it failed to materialise, and the Egyptian was surprisingly substituted with over quarter of an hour to play.
Sadio Mane – 6
After a game-changing cameo at Norwich, Mane had a frustrating first half at the Wanda Metropolitano, with the No. 10 the target of Atletico’s cynical approach after an early yellow card.
He was bright on the ball, but a little loose, and the introduction of Divock Origi appeared to suggest a fitness issue after his return from injury.
Roberto Firmino – 6
Diego Simeone would love having Bobby in his squad: the No. 9 was winning the ball back deep as often as he was linking up with Salah in attack as Liverpool sought to suffocate Atletico when they were ahead.
The Reds needed more magic from Firmino, though, who twisted and turned into blind alleys as Atletico’s famed defensive approach deprived the visitors of any clear shots on goal.
Divock Origi (on for Mane, 46′) – 6
A half-time replacement for Mane, Origi took a direct approach but sometimes too direct, as he found himself running off the pitch on a number of occasions.
Origi was the best of the substitutes, however, and almost teed up Henderson for an unlikely equaliser.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (on for Salah, 72′) – 6
Struggled to change the dynamic in attack.
James Milner (on for Henderson, 80′) – 6
Sent on to provide experience in the middle of the park, but could do little to influence the game late on.
Subs not used: Adrian, Matip, Keita, Minamino
Jurgen Klopp – 6
Klopp was able to name his strongest XI for the first time this season, but perhaps would have expected a better performance from the Reds.
Factors went against his side, however, particularly conceding a goal in the fourth minute and losing Mane at half-time, though how Klopp reacted was perhaps questionable.
Sending on Origi and Oxlade-Chamberlain saw an obvious decrease in quality in attack, with this another night that saw Takumi Minamino remain unused.
Klopp will certainly have his grievances with the referee, who was very easily swayed by the atmosphere at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Overall, not the end of the world for Liverpool, who should still get the job done at Anfield.
Szymon Marciniak – 3
Dreadful. Spineless. Cowardly. Pick your adjective.