LIVERPOOL: Liverpool, for all their command of the Premier League, are no longer kings in Europe. They lost their grip on the Champions League after losing 3-2 at home to Atletico Madrid and 4-2 on aggregate.
Victory overall and on the night rewarded Atletico’s discipline, spirit, physical intensity and self-belief with a place in the quarter-finals. Liverpool led 1-0 and 2-0 before running out of steam and being beaten by three counter-attacking goals from substitutes Marcos Llorente (two) and Alvaro Morata.
In the night’s other tie Paris Saint-Germain reached the quarter-finals with a 2-0 victory (3-2 on aggregate) over Borussia Dortmund. Neymar and Juan Bernat scored the goals.
Liverpool had been relying on the intimidating Anfield atmosphere on a European night to lift them to a comeback victory. But the world and European champions were not quite at full strength after a mixed run of five matches in all competitions which had brought a rare three defeats along with two victories.
Manager Klopp had made two changes from the team who beat Bournemouth in the Premier League last weekend. Captain Jordan Henderson was rushed back into midfield after a hamstring injury. Also back from injury was attacking leftback Andy Robertson. But in goal the unpredictable Spaniard Adrian was still deputising for Alisson Becker.
That proved crucial because it was Adrian’s blunder which opened the way to Atletico’s stoppage-time recovery.
CHAMPIONS LGE this week, 2nd rnd, 2nd legs: Liverpool 2, At. Madrid 3 (2-4 on agg after extra time); PSG 2, B Dortmund 0 (3-2 on agg). TUE: RB Leipzig 3, Tottenham 0 (4-0 agg); Valencia 3, Atalanta 4 (4-8 agg)
He had a scare in the opening minute when Costa slipped in behind the Liverpool defence but clipped his shot into the side netting. At the other end Atletico keeper Jan Oblak was forced into his first save of the entire tie by a Mane header.
Liverpool built the pressure relentlessly as the first half gathered pace. They were far superior to the first leg. Atletico keeper Jan Oblak saved well from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane before Liverpool had a penalty claim rejected by VAR. Two minutes before half-time Mo Salah freed Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right and his cross was headed home by Gini Wijnaldum.
Atletico went close only once more with a header from Felipe which flew wide.
Mane, Salah and Henderson kept Oblak busy from the start of a second half in which Atletico were unable to keep possession for any significant length of time. Saul Niguez launched one long-range effort at Adrian’s goal but it sailed safely wide before Liverpool returned to the attack.
A sweeping move involving Roberto Firmino and Salah ended with Robertson’s header deflected on to the bar by Kieran Trippier. Then Oblak dived right to save from Trent Alexander-Arnold. But the longer time ran on the more Atletico appeared to grow in confidence.
CHAMPIONS LGE next week, 2nd rnd, 2nd legs – TUE: Juventus v Lyon; Man. City v Real Madrid WED: FC Bayern v Chelsea; Barcelona v Napoli
Salah fired wide, Mane was off-target twice and Saul Niguez had a ‘goal’ ruled out for offside before the game surged into extra time.
Three minutes after the restart Liverpool finally gained the advantage their efforts had deserved. This time Wijnaldum provided the cross and Firmino scored his first Anfield goal this season after initially heading against a post.
Four more minutes and the tie had been turned on its head.
Adrian’s poor clearance was seized by Joao Feliz who fed substitute Marcos Llorente to score the goal which put Atletico ahead on the away goals rule. Liverpool’s answering charge upfield left their defence wide open and Llorente broke to score again.
Liverpool now had nothing left in the tank enabling another substitute, Alvaro Morata, to kill them off in stoppage time and complete the hosts’ their first loss at Anfield in Europe under Klopp.