Atletico Madrid take early lead to beat Liverpool

Source:Reuters Published: 2020/2/19 20:13:40

Defending champions need another comeback to continue title defense

Saul Niguez of Atletico Madrid celebrates after scoring against Liverpool on Tuesday in Madrid, Spain. Photo: VCG

Champions League holders Liverpool will need to summon another famous European comeback at Anfield next month after they were beaten 1-0 away to Atletico Madrid in their last-16 first leg on Tuesday.

Spain midfielder Saul Niguez struck the only goal of the game in the fourth minute by bundling into the net from close range following a corner, their traditional weapon of choice in recent years.

Liverpool, who have won 25 of their 26 English Premier League games this season and are on course for a record-­smashing title win, missed a series of chances to equalize in the second half, with Mohamed Salah and captain Jordan Henderson coming closest to scoring.

Juergen Klopp's side play at home to Atletico on March 11 in the return leg at Anfield, where they produced an incredible 4-0 win over Barcelona in last year's semifinal second leg after losing the first match 3-0.

Diego Simeone's men have looked nothing like the sides that reached the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals and challenged Real Madrid and Barcelona's duopoly of La Liga for most of this campaign. They trail league ­leaders Real by 13 points.

But on Tuesday they produced a vintage defensive display, sitting deep and barely giving Liverpool any space for their attacking trident of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane to work their usual magic.

The home side were happy to let Liverpool dominate possession but despite having 73 percent of the ball, Klopp's side did not manage a single shot on target, although Atletico defender Felipe did block a goalbound shot from Salah in the first half.

Atletico only had one other attempt aside from their goal, when Alvaro Morata fired straight at the legs of Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson.

Liverpool forward Mane was fortunate not to be sent off late in the first half after clashing with Sime Vrsaljko while on a yellow card and he was swiftly substituted by Klopp for Divock Origi, who scored the second goal in last year's final.

He caused little disquiet to Atletico's ­towering defenders, yet Salah should have leveled with a header which went wide of the near post, while Henderson also narrowly missed the target from inside the area later on. 

Posted in: SOCCER

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