ATLETICO MADRID 2-3 LIVERPOOL: POST GAME MUSINGS
Liverpool maintained their streak of scoring three goals away from home as they edged a five goal thriller against Atletico Madrid last night. A hugely entertaining game for the neutral saw stunning goals, great saves, two penalties awarded with one overturned, a red card and plenty drama. We take a look at some random thoughts on the game.
° Alisson saves. He returned to the side having missed the Watford game and was immense. Officially named man of the match, he came up with three huge saves to spare his sides blushes as Lemar, Felix and Carrasco were all denied from point blank range. Jan Oblak was amazing at Anfield when Atleti knocked us out, and last night, it was Alisson’s turn to keep us in the game. At 2-2 we were rocking, and had it not been for the Brazilian, things could have gotten hairy.
° Midfield imbalance. We started well, controlled possession, moved it side to side as we probed, and Naby Keita scored a scorcher to add to Salah’s goal. The second half of the first half saw the midfield constantly cut through. It started with Keita being beaten far too easily by Lemar in the build to their first goal. The second was even worse as Felix this time, got away from Keita and had the freedom of the stadium to play in Griezmann.
Keita will bear the brunt of the criticism but Henderson and Milner weren’t much better. That Fabinho made more tackles than all three of them combined speaks volumes. Henderson in particular endured another tough night. Not enough steel or bite to thwart the counters as Atleti broke, and not enough purpose with his use of the ball in the attacking third as we chased a winner, having been moved forward second half.
° Importance of Fabinho. The sight of Fabinho halting a counter with a crunching tackle on Carrasco, after Matip had lost the ball dribbling upfield, summed up just what we had missed first half. An aggressive ball winner to sit in front of the defence and thwart counter attacks is what he is, and more. We have an excellent record when Fabinho and Thiago line up together in midfield, and the sooner the Spaniard returns to fitness, the better.
° Salah again. I’m running out of words to describe the Egyptian now. A brace on the night not only saw him win us the game but set two more records. The first man in our storied history to score in nine consecutive matches, as well as becoming the highest scorer in our Champions League history. Incredible, and all with a smile on his face too. He’s enjoying his football right now and he’s a joy to behold.
° Scoring spree. It can’t be overlooked just how devastating we are going forward. We’ve scored the most goals in the Champions League as well as Premier League so far this season. It’s sensational just how many goals we’re plundering, and we became the first team to ever score three goals away to a Simeone led Atleti side. That’s one of the hardest grounds to score at in Europe, and we got three. Unreal.
° Telling subs. Jurgen Klopp made full use of the available five changes and every one of them made an impact. Fabinho helped shore things up in midfield as a halftime change, whilst the double change of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jota on the hour mark also injected more purpose in our play to help capitalise on the man advantage. Jota won the decisive penalty and Ox was bright. Even the late subs of Gomez and Neco Williams played their part.
° The late show of resilience. With Salah despatching his penalty in the 78th minute, there was still almost 20 minutes to play, all told. We managed the game better than we did at 2-0 up and we made the man advantage count. We stroked the ball around well and played around their press sensibly. We limited them to no shots on target in that time, and bar a skied Correa effort from the edge of the box, no chances.
° Almost through. That victory took us to nine points, five clear of Atleti and Porto. Beat the Spanish outfit at Anfield and we’ll seal qualification with two games to spare. It is imperative we seal qualification early to open up a ‘free’ midweek. We’re making an absolute mockery of the supposed ‘group of death’ as it stands, and we are sending out a message to all across Europe.
° On to the big one. Eyes now turn towards Old Trafford on Sunday. We’re in pretty good nick, unbeaten in 21 matches in all competitions and scoring goals for fun. United are in desperate form having lost 4 of their last 7 and pressure is mounting on Solskjaer. Jurgen Klopp notched his first victory at Old Trafford last season but will know it will be harder this time with a full crowd. The Reds couldn’t be going into it in better mood/form though.