The good, the bad & the rollercoaster of emotions – Debating Liverpool 2-3 Atletico Madrid

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It was a ‘tale of two goalkeepers’ as Liverpool lost a two-leg tie in Europe for the first time under Jurgen Klopp, with Atletico Madrid ending the Reds’ crown of the European Cup.

Liverpool needed to overturn a one-goal deficit from the first leg to progress and Gini Wijnaldum’s header sent them on their way, only for extra-time to follow as a flurry of chances failed to be converted.

Roberto Firmino looked as though he was the hero after netting his first Anfield goal since last time April.

But it was not to be as a costly error by Adrian paved the way for Atletico to turn the tie on its head with three goals in the remaining period of extra-time.

It meant that a relentless and dominant performance failed to be rewarded as the defence of the Champions League crown came to an end at the last-16 stage.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) and Matt Ladson (@mattladson), both of whom were at Anfield, are joined by Aaron Cutler (@aaron_cutler) to delve into the highs and lows from the defeat and discuss the overwhelming feeling of the knockout blow.

 

The good…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 11, 2020: Liverpool's xxxx during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg match between Liverpool FC and Club Atlético de Madrid at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

AARON: I think you can make a strong argument that last night was Liverpool’s best performance of 2020.

Having been stunted and thwarted in the first leg, we carried a far greater threat this time around and carved them open time and again.

Much of that attacking impetus stemmed from Mo Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, both of whom were outstanding.

Klopp was bold in his team selection and was so close to seeing it pay off.

I also felt we showed great patience. An avalanche of chances were created and squandered, which could so easily have knocked confidence and belief. Instead, we kept hammering at the door and grabbed a deserved lead in extra-time.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 11, 2020: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg match between Liverpool FC and Club Atlético de Madrid at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

MATT: I agree with Aaron that it was, comfortably, our best performance of the year and for some time.

We were superb tactically and showed we’d learned from the first leg, right down to the excellent ball boys and getting the game going quick. Those marginal gains are taken seriously.

Had we got a late goal we deserved, we’d be talking about an absolutely superb European performance and a tactical masterclass from Klopp. Fine margins.

We were relentless up until their second goal in extra-time.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 11, 2020: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring the first goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg match between Liverpool FC and Club Atlético de Madrid at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOANNA: I spent most of the day soaking up the atmosphere in the city centre and around Anfield and Atletico fans were in fine voice throughout and, result aside, it was an enjoyable experience.

Anfield was a cauldron of noise and even after the final whistle had blown, despite the obvious disappointment, the support and pride continued to reverberate around the stands.

As Aaron noted, for me, it was easily one of our best performances this year. For 95 minutes we were utterly dominant and Atletico were given the cold shoulder.

To create as many chances as we did against a notoriously stubborn defence was outstanding, it was just our finishing which would ultimately let us down.

Ox was a clear standout, consistently driving us forward and finding space and Gini too was superb. And to be honest, almost the entire team put in performances which were enough to win us the game.

 

The bad…

LONDON, ENGLAND - Tuesday, March 3, 2020: Liverpool's goalkeeper Adrián San Miguel del Castillo looks dejected as Chelsea's score the opening goal during the FA Cup 5th Round match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

AARON: The togetherness of this squad has been a hallmark of Klopp’s reign and nobody involved with the club is going to come out and criticise Adrian for his error last night. Nor should they. That said, the tie swung on that one moment.

The Spaniard a great character and should be applauded for the way he stepped into the breach in August. Even so, there’s a reason he was warming the bench at West Ham and that is likely down to his erratic nature.

He’s had fine games for Liverpool but has done something wild in each and every one of them. That creates an uncertainty in the backline and throughout the stands.

Having fought tooth and nail to edge in front, seeing their lead wiped out so quickly (and easily) clearly drained the players. They were unable to rouse themselves once again. Having climbed the hill, they were faced with another mountain.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 11, 2020: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg match between Liverpool FC and Club Atlético de Madrid at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

MATT: I don’t like the ‘scapegoating’ of players but it’s hard to look beyond Adrian.

He seems to be a goalkeeper trying to play a different way to his ability, ala Mignolet when he tried to play out from the back, which then creates panic around them.

I also thought Virgil looked too lacklustre and/or slightly off the pace at times, which has ben creeping into his game in recent weeks. He wasn’t ‘bad’ but perhaps below his par.

Elsewhere, this should highlight our sub options being not good enough. Origi might as well have not been on the pitch. Imagine Timo Werner coming on there instead. Make it happen please Jurgen.

JOANNA: The obvious one. Adrian. At a time when we needed calm heads and experience to prevail, he just couldn’t find it at the moment we needed it the most.

Mistakes happen and you have to pick yourselves up but it took all the wind out of our sails three minutes after we had effectively won the tie.

From that moment on the wheels came off and the defending for their second goal was laughable.

 

And Liverpool’s defence of the European Cup is over, how do you feel on the whole and in the context of the season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, October 2, 2019: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson looks dejected as FC Salzburg score a third goal to equalise and level the score at 3-3 during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Liverpool FC and FC Salzburg at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

AARON: It was obviously gutting to be knocked out of the Champions League, even more so given the nature of our exit.

That said this entire season has been geared towards one goal… winning the league and ending that 30-year drought. If Liverpool go onto achieve that, nothing else will matter. Nothing.

It will become a historic season and this team and manager – already revered – will be immortalised.

MATT: We’re still the holders until someone else wins it… which could be quite a while!

The biggest disappointment for me now is the anti-climax. The title has been ‘won’ since January, there’s no other competition to play in, the invincible record is gone, and we’re more than likely set to win the title in an empty stadium. It’s such a shame this is ending this way.

There’s absolutely no shame in that, we’ve been superb and this should still go down as an incredible season in our history. It’s just unfortunate the way the whole football season is going to end.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 11, 2020: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp waves goodbye to the Champions League after the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg match between Liverpool FC and Club Atlético de Madrid at Anfield. Club Atlético de Madrid won 3-2 (4-2 on aggregate). (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOANNA: There’s a lot of mixed emotions.

We had effectively won the tie early in extra time and then mistakes reared their head and so to be that close and have it taken away is particularly heartbreaking.

As many have said, the evening was a tale of two goalkeepers and to bow out knowing you were the better side is a hard pill to swallow.

In saying that, the Premier League title is on its way and at the start of the season if someone had said you’d win the league but be knocked out at the first time of asking in Europe, I would have taken it.

Nothing but pride for Jurgen Klopp and his side. We’ll bounce back as we always do.

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