An absolutely crazy Champions League game saw Liverpool eventually beat Atletico Madrid 3-2, with Mohamed Salah hitting two – the winner from the spot.
Atletico Madrid 2-3 Liverpool
Champions League Group Stage (3), Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid
October 19, 2021
Salah 78′ (penalty)
Sent off: Griezmann (52′)
Jurgen Klopp made just one change from the side that demolished Watford at the weekend, with Alisson coming back into the side but Fabinho on the bench due to him being unable to join the team in training.
It was a red hot atmosphere in the Wanda, with a full capacity allowed for the first time since before the pandemic – completing a full circle after the second-leg at Anfield in March 2020 was the last game before lockdown.
That meeting of the two sides pre-pandemic saw Atletico win 4-2 on aggregate and that was something Klopp’s side were seeking to avenge in the stadium where they’d won European Cup No.6 in 2019.
Klopp had spoken of his dislike of Diego Simeone’s tactical approach and this match played out similarly to that second leg which Atletico won 3-2 after extra-time.
The scoring was opened inside eight minutes when, of course, Mohamed Salah cut inside three players and unleashed a trademark shot which took a slight deflection and flew past Jan Oblak in the Atletico goal.
It meant Salah set yet another record, becoming the first Liverpool player to score in nine consecutive games.
Within five minutes it was 2-0 as a confident Liverpool team pushed on and doubled the lead via a lovely volley from Naby Keita on the edge of the box. It was a superbly controlled strike from the midfielder.
An electric opening continued though when Atletico scored completely against the run of play, Koke’s shot being deflected in by Antoine Griezmann off a corner. Poor defending, really.
The goal changed the mood inside the stadium and on the pitch. A superb save from Alisson denied Griezmann once, but the Frenchman got the equaliser after Joao Felix danced past Keita in midfield.
Liverpool had dominated the opening 20 minutes but somehow found themselves desperate for half-time, being over-run in midfield and exposed defensively.
Alisson and Virgil van Dijk almost conspired to gift Atletico the lead, then the keeper made another good save. Defensively, Liverpool were all over the show, with the midfield offering zero protection. The decision not to play Fabinho was certainly looking more questionable.
Half time: Atletico 2-2 Liverpool
Fabinho replaced Keita at half-time in a much-needed change. For Keita, it signalled his second early sub in Madrid, having been replaced after 42 minutes against Real Madrid in April.
The second half started as frenetic as the first, with the match resembling a basketball game at times. Alisson made his third vital save of the night at the feet of Carrasco.
But it took a turn when double-goalscorer Griezmann was given a straight red early in the half for a high foot on Roberto Firmino, connecting with the forward’s head. It was a challenge similar to that which saw Mane sent off at Man City a few years ago.
Atletico, predictably, doubled down on what they are known for: trying to get Liverpool players sent off, getting under their skin and falling for fouls at every slight touch.
An absolutely ridiculous challenge from Hermoso on Diogo Jota saw Liverpool given a penalty and Salah kept his cool to dispatch it past Oblak into the bottom corner. World-class in every respect.
But Liverpool’s game management was poor again and Atletico were initially handed a penalty for a foul by Jota, only for the referee to eventually overturn it via the pitchside monitor.
Cool heads were needed but Liverpool failed to keep the ball and it was Atletico who were still pushing for an equaliser late on, with a huge chance in stoppage time.
Full time brought relief and a third win from three opening Champions League group games. It also saw Diego Simeone run off down the tunnel without a handshake for Klopp.
The Reds are now 21 games unbeaten in all competitions. Next up: Man United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
TIA Man of the Match: Alisson
Referee: Daniel Siebert (GER)
Atletico: Oblak; Trippier, Felipe, Kondogbia (Gimenez 46′), Hermoso (Llorente 80′), Carrasco; Koke, Lemar (Suarez 80′), De Paul (80); Felix (Correa 80′), Griezmann
Subs not used: Lecomte, Lodi, Vrsaljko, Herrera, Cunha
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold (Gomez 84′), Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Milner (Oxlade-Chamberlain 63′), Keita (Fabinho 46′); Salah (Williams 90+2′), Mane (Jota 63′), Firmino
Subs not used: Adrian, Kelleher, Konate, Phillips, Tsimikas, Minamino, Origi
Next match: Man United (A) – Premier League – Sunday, October 24, 4.30pm (BST)