Daily Express


Holders sent crashing by lethal Llorente

- By Gideon Brooks

HAVING first grabbed a lifeline, Liverpool let it go in spectacula­r fashion to crash out of Europe at Anfield.

Two extra- time goals from substitute Marcos Llorente and a last- minute hammer blow by Alvaro Morata stunned the reigning champions and gave Atletico Madrid a 4- 2 aggregate win.

It was the first aggregate defeat of Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp’s time at the club.

This was a brilliantl­y stubborn display from Diego Simeone’s La Liga side. They came to absorb pressure and hit Liverpool on the break and executed their plan perfectly.

Georginio Wijnaldum had sent the game into extra- time with a first- half header in a match where the Reds found Jan Oblak an insurmount­able barrier in the Atletico goal.

Liverpool fans, who have become accustomed to extraordin­ary feats on European nights, thought that inevitable momentum was tipping their way when Roberto Firmino, with his first goal at Anfield this season, made best use of a fortunate rebound from the post and slotted home with his second bite of the cherry.

But two and a half minutes later an Adrian blunder, when he passed the ball straight to Joao Felix, proved costly. The forward slipped it to Llorente, who hammered it past the Liverpool keeper to put Atletico ahead on away goals.

Then, a second break which pulled Liverpool out of shape proved fatal to their hopes as Llorente beat Adrian from distance.

It left the hosts needing two in the second half of extra- time but that proved too much for them.

The pattern of the game was establishe­d in the opening halfhour with Liverpool pushing and Atletico resisting. Dogged, physical and superbly organised, the visitors were well versed in the tactics of spoiling with every challenge milked, every throw- in drawn out almost perfectly to the point where referee Danny Makkelie might have thought about intervenin­g.

It was a profession­al display from Simeone’s side flecked with reminders that, for all that their season has not fired domestical­ly, they remain a top outfit.

In Madrid, Liverpool did not manage one shot on target. It was a statistic unlikely to be repeated here at Anfield as they found Oblak in inspired form and his teammates stubbornly discipline­d.

As half- time approached there was a growing sense of unease in the ground after Wijnaldum, Firmino, Alex Oxlade- Chamberlai­n and Sadio Mane had all seen chances come and go.

Wijnaldum finally broke through when he powered a downward header past Oblak on 43 minutes.

The goal rattled Atletico but it did not really reduce their ambition, which was still to hit Liverpool on the counter attack whenever they could.

Mane and Firmino had chances to double the home team’s lead – the former with a volley from close range that Oblak smothered and the latter with a chance he should have put away.

When Liverpool beat Oblak again they found the woodwork in the way, Scottish internatio­nal Andy Robertson latching on to a blocked shot from Salah which looped up invitingly and heading against the bar.

As Anfield held its breath, Atletico thought they had nicked it at the death.

Saul Niguez headed home a freekick to send Simeone and his staff pouring on to the pitch to celebrate, only for the offside flag to correctly rule it out.

 ?? Main picture: PHIL NOBLE ?? ANFIELD AGONY Llorente hits his opening goal while an animated Simeone drives his players on
TEMPER TANTRUM: Costa is furious after being hauled off
Main picture: PHIL NOBLE ANFIELD AGONY Llorente hits his opening goal while an animated Simeone drives his players on TEMPER TANTRUM: Costa is furious after being hauled off

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