Liverpool cruised past Atletico Madrid to top the group smartly and in style, and they can now focus on the league until February.
Liverpool 2-0 Atletico Madrid
Anfield, Champions League
3 November 2021
Goals: Jota 13′, Mane 21′
Trent Alexander-Arnold finished the game with two excellent assists, both from a similar position in the right halfspace, or the right side of the edge of the area.
The right-back has become known for playing the position in a fairly unique way, operating as a creative player from the right for Liverpool, and this was another example of his tactical versatility.
As the touch map above, from WhoScored, shows, the 23-year-old did a lot of his work in midfield areas.
It was from here he assisted both goals, one with a first-time cross guided behind the Atleti defence for Jota, and the second low into Mane.
Suarez stifled again
This was the second time Luis Suarez had returned to Anfield since he left for Spain, originally to Barcelona, in 2014.
He was part of the Barca side that were on the end of that memorable comeback as Liverpool won 4-0 having been three down, and this latest return was another miserable one for the Uruguayan.
He was booed by much of the Anfield crowd, if not quite as ferociously as he was back in 2019.
He did find the net with a strike that deflected off Matip, but it was disallowed for offside.
He was taken off with just under an hour gone to a mixture of boos and applause.
Liverpool’s needle hits the groove
The broadcasters of tonight’s game in the UK, BT Sport, repeatedly used the word needle to describe the goings-on around this game.
The way the Champions League fixtures fall, with the back-to-back games against the same opponent in the middle of the six fixtures, helps drive these narratives.
From the overreaction to the non-handshake between Jurgen Klopp and Diego Simeone at the end of the last game, to the actions of the players on the pitch, there were mini-battles to look for everywhere.
From the outset, Liverpool looked to give as good as they were expecting but rarely got from Atleti.
Fabinho left knee in the back of Rodrigo De Paul after Henderson tripped the Argentine. An early Double team.
Were Atletico rattled? The referee was a bit card-happy, but they brought it on themselves, showing petulance that went against their street-wise reputation.
The Felipe red card seemed slightly harsh, but again it was a case of an Atleti player losing the plot in a moment they might normally not even see yellow.
Midfield balance tips favourably
While the midfield against Brighton was all over the shop, there was some encouragement against Atletico thanks to returning players and improved performances.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was trusted with a start, and it was one of his better performances. There was more about him, more energy and purpose, and he posed a genuine threat to the opposition.
The main reason for the solidity was the return of Fabinho at the base of midfield, it allowed Henderson to play further forward and perform the role that allowed Alexander-Arnold to do his thing.
This win, combined with AC Milan’s draw with Porto, means Liverpool are not only qualified for the knockout stages but will finish top of Group B regardless of what happens in the remaining games.
The Reds have won an impressive four from four against far from straightforward opposition – the first time they’ve done so.
This is a massive bonus for Jurgen Klopp as he looks to rotate his lineup to keep everyone fresh in order to challenge on multiple fronts.
With substitute Roberto Firmino leaving the field and going straight down the tunnel with an as-yet-unspecified knock in the second half, it shows the importance of squad depth and rest for star players. A couple of free hits in the Champions League will come in handy.
That said, the more games a team wins, the more Champions League prize money they receive at the end of their campaign, and this might be something Liverpool’s money men will be taking into consideration.
Aside from that, you’d hope it will give chances to squad players and maybe some youth players, too, such as Tyler Morton who remained an unused substitute against Atleti.