Champions League: Atletico Madrid knock out Liverpool with extra-time treble
Diego Simeone’s side overturn Liverpool’s 25 game unbeaten run at Anfield
Exit the champions. For the first time in Jurgen Klopp’s reign at Anfield, Liverpool lost a two-legged European tie.
They will not secure their seventh European Cup this year, not after an extraordinary display of goalkeeping from Jan Oblak and a remarkable performance by Atletico Madrid substitute Marcos Llorente.
With Alvaro Morata’s 120th minute goal completing a 3-2 win on the night, and 4-2 in aggregate, Liverpool were beaten at Anfield for the first time since 2018.
Llorente was an architect of the upset. The midfielder had only scored six goals in his career.
He added two in nine minutes of extra-time at Anfield, leaving Liverpool regretting the loss of the injured Alisson.
His deputy Adrian was at fault for the Spaniard’s first goal, just 167 seconds after Roberto Firmino sent Anfield into raptures and, seemingly, Liverpool into the quarter-finals.
Instead, it is Diego Simeone’s dogged Atletico who advance.
Liverpool produced a performance of almost relentless intensity for 97 minutes.
They were dominant for large parts of the game but Europe’s most cussed team found a way, and found an unlikely hero alongside a more likely one.
Llorente’s strikes from outside the box, the first after Adrian’s poor clearance, were the pivotal moments and made him the improbable decider of an epic game.
He was aided and abetted by Oblak. In Alisson’s absence, the Slovenian pressed his claim for the unofficial title of the world’s best goalkeeper.
Liverpool had 34 shots but only scored twice as Oblak made a string of saves.
Two of the best were to deny the dynamic Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who let fly from long range in both halves.
Sadio Mane, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Gini Wijnaldum could also testify to his agility and ability.
When Oblak was beaten, the bar came to Atletico’s rescue.
Andy Robertson materialised on the edge of Atletico’s six-yard box to meet Mohamed Salah’s deflected shot and head it past the goalkeeper.
It was not the only time Liverpool needed their efforts to be a little lower. Mane’s overhead kick cleared the Atletico bar while Salah, after cutting infield in trademark fashion, sent a shot flying into the Kop.
Wijnaldum was pivotal in Liverpool’s goals. Klopp faced a selection dilemma in midfield and, despite the outcome, called correctly.
The returning captain Jordan Henderson was outstanding. So was Oxlade-Chamberlain, who crossed for Wijnaldum to head in Liverpool’s first.
It offered echoes of the Barcelona semi-final last year, when he also scored a header.
Then, in added time, Firmino ended his 337-day wait for an Anfield goal, converting the rebound after he headed Wijnaldum’s cross against the post.
It was not the only time when celebrations ultimately felt premature. Simeone was on the pitch when Saul Niguez headed in Renan Lodi’s free kick in the 92nd minute, oblivious to the raised offside flag.
But half an hour later, he could savour a major scalp: Liverpool were out.
Updated: March 12, 2020 10:24 AM