Liverpool played superbly but came unstuck in extra-time to exit the Champions League 3-2 on aggregate against Atletico Madrid.
Liverpool (2) 2-3 (4) Atletico Madrid (AET)
Champions League Last-16 2nd Leg, Anfield
Wednesday, 11 March 2020
Wijnaldum 44′ (assist: Oxlade-Chamberlain)
Firmino 94′ (assist: Firmino)
Jurgen Klopp named an attack-minded midfield, with Jordan Henderson returning to the side and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain getting the nod alongside the captain and Gini Wijnaldum.
Heavy rain and a roaring atmosphere greeted the teams at kick-off. A fast start was required, with Liverpool deploying extra ball boys who were quick to get the ball back in play in an attempt to combat Atletico’s frustrating tactics.
The Reds started well, testing Jan Oblak twice early on in the wet conditions and playing a much quicker pace than in the away leg.
“More shots on target,” said Klopp when asked pre-match what his side needed after his side failed to get one shot on target in Madrid and the Reds were much better at doing so.
The last time Liverpool needed a second-leg comeback against Spanish opposition, it was Gini Wijnaldum who arrived off the bench to twice head past Barcelona, and the Dutchman provided the opening goal just before half-time.
The Reds’ No. 5 rose to head in Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross from the byline on the right to give Liverpool the lead their first-half efforts deserved.
Half time: Liverpool 1-0 Atletico Madrid
The players were greeted by another downpour for the opening of the second half and Liverpool continued in a similar fashion.
A Mo Salah shot kicked off proceedings but it was a weak effort straight at Oblak, while an Oxlade-Chamberlain effort from distance forced the keeper into a good save low down.
A 1-0 scoreline would mean extra-time, and considering Atletico’s early goal in the first-leg they had now spent the entirety of the tie defending – the question was whether they would open up and attempt to grab a vital away goal.
For long periods it continued to be attack vs. defence, Atletico with 11 men behind the ball.
The home pressure almost told midway through the half. First when Salah’s shot deflected up and Andy Robertson arrived inside the box only for his header to hit the crossbar, then minutes later when Alexander-Arnold’s shot from distance fell to Robertson inside the box but his shot was blocked.
Liverpool were excellent, relentlessly attacking, while at times it seemed Atletico were happy to defend and play for extra-time and penalties.
The Reds pushed for a winner, with Mane’s acrobatic overhead and another Robertson effort off a nicely worked corner being the most notable chances as we entered the final stages.
Salah was causing all sorts of problems for Atleti’s defence and a mazy run down the right saw him cut inside but he couldn’t find the far corner with his effort.
In the final seconds of stoppage time, an Atletico free-kick almost provided a sting in the tail, with Saul heading past Adrian to send the Spaniards’ bench wild – only for the linesman’s flag to be lifted.
To extra time we went and the drama really happened.
Roberto Firmino‘s first goal at Anfield of the season put Liverpool ahead 2-0, the Brazilian finishing from close range after his initial header rebounded off the post.
But within two minutes Atleti hit back at the other end when Marcos Llorente took advantage of a poor clearance by Adrian and finished past the keeper. 2-1.
And Llorente made it 2-2 on the night in stoppage time at the end of the first half of extra time, bending an effort past Adrian after nobody closed him down. A poor goal to concede on the break.
Needing two goals in the second half of extra time and having put so much into the game, Liverpool weren’t able to find the miracle they have so often provided in the past.
Instead, Alvaro Morata wrapped things up for the visitors in the 120th minute with an easy finish past Adrian.
Attention now turns to getting the league title wrapped up, with the Merseyside derby on Monday night.
TIA Man of the Match: Sadio Mane
Liverpool: Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson (Fabinho 106′), Wijnaldum (Origi 106′), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Milner 81′); Salah, Mane, Firmino (Minamino 112)
Subs not used: Lonergan, Matip, Lallana
Atletico: Oblak; Tripper (Vrsaljko 91′), Savic, Felipe, Lodi; Correa (Gimenez 106′), Thomas, Saul, Koke; Costa (Llorente 56′), Joao Felix (Morata 103′)
Subs not used: Adan, Lemar, Carrasco
Referee: Danny Makkelie (NED)
Next Match: Everton (away, Monday 16 March)