Atletico Madrid 1
A flat performance which lends itself to those who feel that the side might, despite being in Madrid 36 hours, have been unable to shake of travel fatigue. Atletico Madrid are an ordinary side but we put in an ordinary performance. Both sides are domestically out of sorts and both suffered early Champions League exits. Although it is wrong to judge anything on one game less generous critics, ignoring the circumstance surrounding the game, would say that last night it showed. However, let’s be positive we go to Anfield just a goal down. It will be a different game there?
Rafa kept the same side as he did for West Ham save for the cup tied Maxi who was replaced by Lucas. Wherever you are playing in any game it is important to start well and keep things tight particularly if you are playing away in a tie of this nature. We didn’t.
After nine minutes Madrid got the ball on our right. Where was Glen Johnson? Nowhere! Jamie Carragher had to fill in for him thus leaving the middle vulnerable. Nonetheless the move should have broken down as Kyrgiakos tried to head the resulting cross to safety. Sadly he missed and his error was compounded because Forlan, the player was supposed to be marking, was left free. Forlan’s reputation as a goal scorer has grown since he moved to Spain from Old Trafford however, his finishing must have bought back many memories for Mancs fans (assuming they were watching). A poor header – nowhere, a unconvincing poke – stopped by Reina, another scuffed effort – stopped by Reina again, and an apology of an attempt that finally crept over the line evading a desperate, but fruitless, attempt to clear from Carragher.
A very, very poor goal to concede with marking almost non existent mainly because of a move that, yet again, started because Glen Johnson had gone “walkabout” up the pitch stretching his back four colleagues. This is starting to become a problem for us and don’t care how much he cost if things are tight Johnson has to pull his weight in defence first. The glory hunting up the pitch can wait until things are easier?
However despite the chaos, there was enough to suggest things might get better. Benayoun slipped his marker and latched onto a through ball and scuffed his shot into the net. Offside? Everyone, including I suspect Benayoun, thought so but the TV proved he wasn’t. In these ties two extra officials are employed so that’s five but none of them saw it? Later Gerrard had half a chance running onto Lucas’ through ball however, with pitch running out, he had to take his shot early and ended up finding the side netting. Overall Atletico had more of the game, as to be expected from the home side however, the goal notwithstanding, we could have gone in level had these chances materialised and we’d had a better run of the ball.
As the second half began we continued to push forward without making too many inroads. Gerrard tried to chip the keeper from about fifty yards. Rafa swapped Babel for Ngog who had little opportunity to build on Monday’s goal largely due to the excellent Perea. Before this Forlan wasted a good chance because he thought he was offside, he wasn’t. Reina then produced a superb save, knocking over the top a close range thrash from Samio after Johnson had slipped and let him in. Ujfalusi produced a left foot shot that snaked long and low. Reina saved well but couldn’t hold on to it and Carragher bravely slid in to clear the loose ball with Simao ready to pounce.
Babel and Gerrard kept going towards to end to keep Madrid a bay who, a despite a worrying couple of last minute corners, in all honesty didn’t look too desperate to add to their lead. Perhaps the fear of conceding an away goal was more important and despite their good a start in the end Madrid were there for the taking and will probably, with hindsight, be annoyed that they haven’t made more of the tie.
Hopefully we won’t fall not the same trap next week? We made the trip and arguable the hard part is over although of course we should guard against thinking it will be downhill cruise from now on. Not our best performance but considering everything a good, if not spectacular nights, work.
Half time let’s go for it at Anfield and to Rafa and the team, here’s to a quick and safe journey home.
Atletico Madrid: De Gea, Antonio Lopez, Ujfalusi, Dominguez, Perea, Raul Garcia, Paulo Assuncao, Simao (Valera 77), Forlan (Eduardo Salvio 85), Jurado, Reyes (Camacho 90+2), Substitutes: Sergio Asenjo, Juanito, Leandro Cabrera, Valera, Camacho, Eduardo Salvio, Borja
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Agger, Kyrgiakos, Carragher, Gerrard, Benayoun (El Zhar 83), Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Ngog (Babel 64), Substitutes: Cavalieri, Degen, Ayala, Aquilani, Babel, El Zhar, Pacheco