Sadio Mane

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Atleti ends Liverpool hopes of UCL repeat

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Marcos Llorente scored twice in extra time, the first off an extra-time blunder from Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian, as Atletico Madrid knocked the reigning champions out of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

The match finished 3-2 to Atleti, 4-2 on aggregate, as Alvaro Morata scored late to pour salt in Liverpool’s wounds.

[ MORE: Klopp, Milner react | Simeone, too ]

The Reds forgot their finishing boots on a dominant day, out-attempting Diego Simeone’s visitors 34-9. Atleti goalkeeper Jan Oblak made nine saves.

Roberto Firmino’s goal in the fourth minute of extra time joined Georginio Wijnaldum‘s first-half goal to give Liverpool an advantage it held for less than two minutes.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]


Three things we learned

1. Gini and The Ox run the show, but miserable finishing kills Reds: Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain rewarded Jurgen Klopp for his risk of removing off-kilter star Fabinho from the Starting XI. The pair teamed up on the opening goal but it was more than that that earned them headlines. Wijnaldum was the best player not named Jan Oblak in the first half, while Oxlade-Chamberlain was a menace to Atleti’s midfielders in the second frame. While Jordan Henderson was understandably a bit rusty at times, his center midfield mates delivered the goods.

That said, Liverpool’s finishing was a combination of truly poor and terribly unlucky. Even when the Reds went ahead in stoppage time, it was Firmino cashing in a rebound after his first shot toward a gaping half of the goal hit the post. Robertson headed off the cross bar. Mohamed Salah shot ball after the ball almost directly to Jan Oblak or over the goal. This won’t go down as “Atleti is so hard to break down,” though Simeone’s men obviously are a tough team; The Reds just didn’t finish enough of their many, many chances.

2. Oblak almost everywhere: Not sure where exactly the joke is here, but Atletico Madrid’s goalkeeper blocked nearly everything that came his way, inspiring “Oh” and “Oh” from the Anfield faithful. The Slovenian shot-stopper

3. Adrian gives it away: Spanish keeper Adrian had very little to do on the day in filling in for the injured Alisson Becker, but ultimately will go down as the man responsible for Liverpool’s failure to defend its UCL crown. He made three saves on the day, but his poor pass up the middle of the pitch to Joao Felix will be what everyone remembers as Liverpool again loses a big UCL match due to a goalkeeper error (and terrible finishing).

Man of the Match: It’s Oblak. Yes, Llorente scored twice. Sure, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wijnaldum were incredible. But the Slovenian commanded his box in the face of extreme adversity and congestion.


Liverpool entered the match with predictable vigor, Jan Oblak’s first duty coming off a Georginio Wijnaldum header of a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross.

Atleti found its footing soon after, Kieran Trippier unable to turn a long diagonal ball off a free kick back toward goal.

Salah tempted the frame with a 20-yard attempt in the 10th minute, and Oblak made a sprawling denial of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain four minutes later.

Atleti won a corner in the 17th, but Felipe nodded short of the near post.

Salah took advantage of a Renan Lodi slip to cue up Sadio Mane, but his bounding shot was blocked and collected by Oblak.

The Atleti keeper then made a fantastic save on Roberto Firmino after an incisive Alexander-Arnold cross.

Wijnaldum leveled the tie in the 43rd minute, and the goal had been coming. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross found a wide-open Wijnaldum at the spot for a powered-down header that bounced past Oblak.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Salah stung Oblak’s palms early in the second half, and the Atleti keeper stopped an offside Mane with a fantastic left-hand save in the 50th.

Oblak got low to palm away an Oxlade-Chamberlain drive, conceding a corner.

Joao Felix had a chance out of nothing, and Adrian bumbled the ball but saved his error by blocking Correa’s chop at the rebound.

Robertson was celebrating a would-be go-ahead goal off a Salah cross, but it hit the cross bar in the 67th minute. Oblak made another fine save before the rebound was blocked by a defender.

An 81st-minute corner routine set up Robertson for glory, but he blazed clear of the frame from 18 yards.

Wijnaldum couldn’t finish with a back post header off a James Milner cross, and Mane smashed an overhead kick over the bar.

Saul Niguez was offside when he headed a stoppage-time free kick home, and the match moved to extra time.

Oblak made another save to start stoppage time, his ninth of the match. Firmino then took his rebound off the post to make it 2-0.

But wait, Atleti had an answer when Adrian’s clearance went right to Joao Felix. A few touches later it was 2-1 through Llorente’s low drive, and he added another through a well-worked counterattack to stun the reigning champs.

Morata blazed past the Liverpool back line to seal the result deep in the second period of extra time.

Report: Atletico players angered by Klopp accusations

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Atletico Madris’s strategy at the Wanda Metripolitano on Tuesday evening were on display for all to see. When Saul Ninguez scored an early goal, Diego Simeone had what he came for. The hosts sat back and protected the lead, as is tradition.

The Spanish side, known for its defensive prowess ever since Simeone took charge, successfully absorbed the waves of Liverpool pressure en route to a 1-0 first-leg victory at home in their Champions League Round of 16 matchup against title-holders Liverpool. It was a solid accomplishment for a team that has otherwise not looked itself this season.

[ MORE: Atleti tops Liverpool | Klopp ready for leg 2 ]

Still, Jurgen Klopp was not necessarily impressed.

The Reds boss believed that some relatively recalcitrant methods were utilized as the hosts fought to maintain their early lead. After withdrawing valuable winger Sadio Mane at halftime, there were concerns that the Senegalese star was injured, but Klopp waved those away, instead revealing his true intentions behind the move.

“It’s part of football, I don’t like it,” Klopp said in his post-match press conference. Indeed, Mane had picked up a first-half yellow card on a coming together with Sime Vrsaljko, and Klopp admitted feeling the need to protect his attacker from further disciplinary action. “The [Atletico Madrid] plan was to get Sadio out of the game with a yellow card.”

“I was afraid that his opponent would go down if Sadio only took a deep breath. After 30 minutes, three Atletico players were on the ground, not even injured.”

Klopp was not the only one to notice such tactics, known colloquially by a naughty word not necessarily repeatable here. The players took a slightly more diplomatic route to the same conclusion. Atletico Madrid “started falling over and things like that, trying to get under our skin” according to Andy Robertson, while Virgil Van Dijk said: “That is the way they play, that’s Spanish football.” Even some in the media were tactfully astute.

 

Still, the Atletico Madrid players did not take kindly to those accusations, according to an ESPN report out Wednesday morning. Per the report: “ESPN has been told that Atletico’s players are surprised by the complaints, and said it is important to be ‘gracious’ in defeat as well as in victory, and that Klopp should focus more on his own team’s shortcomings, given that they ‘didn’t get a shot on target in 90 minutes.’

It’s no secret how Atletico Madrid plays, yet they still found a soft spot in one of the best defenses in Europe and effectively shut down one of the more potent attacks on the continent as well. Job done by the midway point. The second leg on March 11 after “the longest halftime break you can wish for” according to Klopp, will likely feature more of the same, and should make for appointment viewing.

Liverpool’s Klopp: ‘Our people will be ready’ for second leg at Anfield

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Jurgen Klopp didn’t have any issue with Diego Simeone’s defense-first Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Spanish side flummoxed Liverpool’s attack and the Reds didn’t manage a shot on target despite eight attempts and 73 percent possession at the Wanda Metropolitano.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

What Klopp didn’t appreciate was the referee’s work, though, implying that Polish official Szymon Marciniak was overwhelmed by the occasion. Marciniak has worked UCL matches for six seasons, twice overseeing quarterfinal ties.

Klopp was shown a yellow card in the second half, and the Liverpool boss felt Sadio Mane was harassed by Atleti. Klopp removed yellow-carrying Mane at halftime.

“He was targeted obviously,” Klopp said after the game. “The only thing they wanted was to make sure he got a yellow card. The score is 1-0, that’s all but you need to be really strong as a ref in this atmosphere. So many things happened, after 30 minutes already three players were on the ground. The first yellow card was a striker from us. I’m not sure they even got a yellow card, which is funny.”

Atleti’s Angel Correa was shown a yellow, while Klopp, Mane, and Joe Gomez were cautioned for Liverpool.

The Liverpool boss found himself laughing a few times, especially when he was asked about Simeone’s touchline personality.

Klopp said before the game that if the German was a four in intensity, then Simeone was a 12. Simeone followed suit by constantly urging the crowd to get behind the home side on Tuesday.

That didn’t bother Klopp, but he issued a public relations officer’s dream in reacting to it.

“Wow, wow,” he laughed. “That’s energy. I don’t think I have to do it that much (at Anfield). Our people will be ready. Welcome to Anfield. It’s not over yet.”

Klopp finished his remarks by saying of Jordan Henderson‘s removal from the game with a hamstring injury, “I hope it was a precaution, but I’m not 100 percent sure”

Atletico Madrid takes first leg versus Liverpool

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Saul Niguez scored in the fourth minute and Atletico Madrid blanked and frustrated Liverpool in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg on Tuesday in Spain.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Liverpool had 73 percent of the ball but failed to put any of its eight shots on target, including a cherry chance for Mohamed Salah to head home an equalizer.

The sides meet again at 4 p.m. ET March 11 at Anfield.


Three things we learned

1. Mane, Salah struggle: This was a not a banner day for two of the best wingers in the world. Mohamed Salah missed one solid and one excellent chance to score an away goal, and won just 2 of 8 duels. Mane was nearly as poor, taking a silly yellow card before being removed at halftime with a 2 of 9 record in duels.

2. Lodi locks down the left: Atleti’s 21-year-old left back may’ve signed from Brazilian club Athletico Paranaense this summer, but he looks like he’s been in Diego Simeone’s system since he was an academy kid. Lodi recorded six tackles, two clearances, two interceptions, 10-of-12 duels won and a key pass.

3. The bounce goes against Liverpool: So many times this season, the Reds have seemingly willed a decisive bounce in their direction. It’s hard to fault Fabinho for a ball bounding off him and onto the path of Saul, but that’s why this match is 1-0. Just luck.

Man of the Match: Saul and Thomas Partey were terrific in the heart of Atleti’s midfield, and Saul gets our nod given his goal. He was 5-for-5 in dribbles, passed at 85 percent, won 10-of-12 duels, and had three clearances, two interceptions, and two tackles.


Atletico were all over the visitors, and an early corner got them on the board when Saul cleaned up a mess at the near post.

It was the first goal conceded by Liverpool in 379 minutes, according to the broadcast.

The Reds had almost all of the ball but had trouble with Atleti’s disciplined shape, and a Renan Lodi cross was almost enough for Alvaro Morata to make it 2-0.

Virgil Van Dijk‘s failed clearance led to an Alvaro Moarata acute-angled shot, but Alisson Becker dealt with it.

Jan Oblak gave the ball away at the other end and the ball ended up in his net, but Mohamed Salah was offside when Fabinho hit him with a quick pass.

Liverpool had another chance in the 29th minute, but Andy Robertson spun his shot wide of the frame.

Trent Alexander-Arnold served up a couple of unsuccessful corners soon after Salah screwed a quality opportunity well over the goal.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Atleti was attacking again early in the second half, and a rare Andy Robertson error was bailed out by poor control in the final third.

Salah headed wide when Joe Gomez charged forward to send in a perfect back post cross.

Lodi then set up Morata for a glorious chance near the penalty spot. The ex-Chelsea man flubbed it in spectacular fashion.

Jordan Henderson missed another prime chance to get an away goal, as the Reds’ luck just wasn’t in Madrid.

Super sub Mane gives Liverpool win at Norwich City

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Sadio Mane’s late winner off the bench withstood VAR to keep Liverpool’s unbeaten league season in tact with a 1-0 win over Norwich City at Carrow Road on Saturday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

The goal, Mane’s 100th in England, gives Liverpool a 25-point lead atop the Premier League table, second-place Man City holding a game-in-hand.

Liverpool will tie the English top-flight record for most consecutive wins if it claims a win on Feb. 24 versus West Ham United.

Last place Norwich City remains seven points back of safety, though their performance will keep hope alive for its supporters.


Three things we learned

1. Super sub Sadio winner withstands VAR review: Mane used a small shove — but a shove nonetheless –of a Norwich City defender to get himself a bit of space, and slotted past Krul in the 78th minute. The Video Assistant Referee did not see enough to overturn the goal, assisted by Jordan Henderson‘s able long ball.

2. Carrow Road feeds the desperate Canaries: The hosts were up for this one from Moment No. 1. Daniel Farke‘s men were very sound in the first half and opened up zero chances of real danger, and would’ve been ahead 1-0 had they converted an early opportunity. Liverpool could not take advantage of the chances earned by their pressing high up the field, and needed to go their bench for a look.

3. Norwich the latest to waste a gilt-edge chance provided by Liverpool: Maybe it was winter break rust, but the Reds back line fell asleep but lived to tell the story thanks to Lukas Rupp‘s soft pass and Alisson Becker’s quick hands.

Man of the Match: Naby Keita and Trent Alexander-Arnold were Liverpool’s best players on the day, but it can’t be taken away from Mane.


A lively Carrow Road saw Liverpool with the ball in the early stages, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hitting a low shot to Tim Krul in the seventh minute.

Despite a wealth of possession for Liverpool, Norwich got a glorious chance. Lukas Rupp had Alisson Becker beaten when he laid off for Teemu Pukki, but the pass was weak and the Liverpool goalkeeper snared it.

That was really it for first half danger. Liverpool had all nine of the match’s shots but only Oxlade-Chamberlain’s early attempt went to Krul.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Reds threatened in the second half, with Krul denying Mohamed Salah then getting back into position to make a fine save on Naby Keita.

Alex Tettey hit the outside of the post in the 73rd minute, though it looked like Alisson had the angle covered if the effort was accurate.

That’s when Mane got his goal.

Pukki belted a shot into the chest of Alisson in the 89th minute.