LIVERPOOL // Steven Gerrard scored a controversial penalty deep into injury time to earn Liverpool a 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid in Champions League Group D last night. The Liverpool captain converted from the spot after he was challenged in the box by Mariano Pernia and the Swedish referee Martin Hansson awarded a debatable penalty kick. The Spanish side had thought Maxi Rodriguez's superbly taken 37th minute strike was enough to book their place in the knockout stages of the competition.
"If it was in the middle of the pitch it would be a free-kick. It was in the box and it was penalty. We deserved at least to score," the Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez said of the late penalty. Both teams, who are five points clear at the top of the group, must now wait for their next games to confirm their progression to the next round. The manner of the draw was harsh on Atletico, having gone ahead through a goal of supreme quality by Rodriguez.
The Argentine deftly slipped past defender Jamie Carragher in the box to score from Antonio Lopez's smart overlapping run and cross. Liverpool badly missed the finishing power of the Spanish striker Fernando Torres, who sat out for the second time against his former club with a hamstring injury. In his absence the better opportunities fell to defender Daniel Agger who was unable to take any of the three chances that came his way before Gerrard was once again called upon to rescue his side.
"It was important not to lose because we are on the top of the group," Benitez added. "It would be better if we had won though. "We kept attacking and that is something we had to keep doing because it is the way to change results." The Atletico assistant coach Ignacio Ambriz refused to let the controversial penalty detract from his side's impressive display. "I was a long way from the incident to appreciate it fully," he said.
"It just shows how quickly things chance in football. One minute we are in the next phase and suddenly that happens. We just have to carry on playing. "The point is useful. We have two more games and let's see if we can top the group." *Reuters
Anorthosis Famagusta 3 Inter Milan 3 Barcelona 1 Basel 1 CFR Cluj 1 Bordeaux 2 Liverpool 1 Atletico Madrid 1 Marseille 3 PSV Eindhoven 0 Roma 3 Chelsea 1 Sporting Lisbon 1 Shakhtar Donetsk 0 Werder Bremen 0 Panathinaikos 3