Saul Niguez scored the winning goal as Atletico Madrid secured a slender 1-0 victory against Liverpool in their UEFA Champions League round of 16 first-leg tie at the Wanda Metropolitano on Tuesday evening.
The hosts took the lead within the first few minutes as the Spanish midfielder struck clinically from close range following a failed clearance from a corner. Diego Simeone’s men defended brutishly throughout the remainder of the game after taking the lead, keeping the Reds’ terrific frontline quiet and securing a much-deserved result as attention turns to the second-leg at Anfield in three weeks’ time.
Saul gives Atleti dream start
It was the perfect start for Diego Simeone and his charges as Saul gave Atleti the lead. Liverpool failed to deal with a corner, with the ball bouncing off of Fabinho and into the path of the Spanish midfielder, who tucked home past Alisson.
They then went close to doubling the lead as Alvaro Morata profited from an uncharacteristic error from Virgil van Dijk but could not beat the Reds’ stopper after cutting inside.
Liverpool did eventually have the ball in the net as Mo Salah picked off a horrendous clearance from Jan Oblak and exchanged passes with Roberto Firmino. After stroking the ball home into an unguarded net, the linesman correctly raised his flag, with the Brazilian some way offside.
Morata wastes golden opportunity
Salah continued to be a threat though as Liverpool went in search of what would have been a crucial equaliser. Felipe produced a great block to deflect his shot towards to top corner following a flowing move.
As somewhat expected though, the hosts turned in a tremendous defensive showing to keep the reigning European champions at bay, with Klopp even having to turn to his bench to replace the stricken Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson. Atleti could even have notched a second through Morata but the Spaniard slipped just as he looked to be firing towards goal.
One goal would turn out to be enough in the end as Atleti kept up their brilliant defensive form to take a crucial win to Anfield for the second-leg.
The excellent defensive performance from Diego Simeone’s troops was somewhat expected, what wasn’t though was Liverpool’s failure to really build up a head of steam in attacking areas. Strangely, the Reds’ wicked front three were uncharacteristically quiet and weren’t quite able to have enough of an influence to produce an equaliser to the hosts’ early goal. As a result, they now need to produce another comeback at Anfield to ensure they can continue the title that they lifted in Madrid just eight months ago.
Atletico Madrid: Oblak (7); Lodi (7), Felipe (7), Savic (7), Vrsaljko (7); Koke (7), Partey (7), Niguez (8); Lemar (5) (Llorente (6), 45′), Correa (7) (Costa (N/A), 77′), Morata (6) (Vitolo (6), 70′).
Liverpool: Alisson (7); Robertson (7), van Dijk (7), Gomez (6), Alexander-Arnold (6); Wijnaldum (6), Fabinho (6), Henderson (6) (Milner (N/A), 80′); Mane (6) (Origi (5), 45′), Firmino (6), Salah (6) (Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), 73′).
Goals: Saul (4′)
Referee: Szymon Marciniak
Yellow Cards: Mane (40′), Gomez (59′), Klopp (88′)
Red Cards: N/A
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