Liverpool were handed a 1-0 defeat by Atletico Madrid in their last-16 first-leg match on Tuesday. The leaders of the EPL, Liverpool were undone by an early goal by Spain midfielder Saul Niguez as they failed to score an equaliser despite coming close on occasions. Also Read - Manchester United Great Rio Ferdinand Wants English Premier League to be Called Off
In the 4th minute, Niguez, following a corner, took a shot from close range to put Atletico ahead, and an aggregate lead. Liverpool came close to scoring in the second half, their best chances coming to Mohammed Salah and skipper Jordan Henderson, but neither could apply the finishing touch. Salah’s header went wide of the post while Henderson missed the target narrowly from inside the box. Also Read - Coronavirus Sports Live Tracker: Athletes Welcome Decision to Postpone Tokyo Olympics
“This is the result of hard work and what happens when you never stop believing but keep on going,” match-winner Saul told reporters. “We have kept on working even though no-one believes in us and wants to bring us down. I celebrated the goal with so much passion because I was so up for the game, we have been criticised a lot but luckily I was able to help us out.” Also Read - Coronavirus Pandemic: UEFA Postpones All Next Week's Champions League and Europa League Games
In the past, Atletico have been found guilty if a weak defence, but on Tuesday, put on a wonderful exhibition not allowing the trio of Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to work their craft. Mane, who was handed a yellow card, was fortunate to not be sent off after clashing with Sime Vrsaljko but Jurgen Klopp took no chance and substituted him with Divock Origi.
“It was not exactly what should happen but it happened,” Klopp told BT Sport afterward. “It was the fight we expected and the atmosphere we expected but I love so many parts of our game. It is only 1-0 down at halftime and the second half we play at our stadium.”
Liverpool will host Atletico on March 11 at Anfield in the return leg, where they famously beat Barcelona 4-0 in last year’s semifinal.
“We conceded the goal from the corner, first chance for them, not even a chance. Bit of luck. We had the ball most of the game but unfortunately could not create massive opportunities. We still have another 90 minutes to set it right,” Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk told BT Sport.
“It is the way they play. It is a bit of the Spanish football as well and you have to adapt but we knew it and I feel we handled it pretty well.”