Thursday, October 23, 2008


Wednesday 22 October 2008 19:45 , Champions League Group Phase


Rafael Benitez was denied a winning return to his hometown after Robbie Keane's first-half opener was cancelled out by Simao's late strike in a keenly contested 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid.

The Reds had looked on the verge of becoming the first English side to win at the Vicente Calderon Stadium courtesy of the Irishman's fine first-half goal but they could not hold on and were forced to settle for a draw that sees them remain level on points with Atletico at the top of Group D.

The match had been heralded as the homecoming of one of Madrid's famous sons, but with Fernando Torres back on Merseyside nursing his hamstring, the visitors arrived in the Spanish capital hoping to prevent some of their own old boys - messrs Florent Sinama Pongolle and Luis Garcia - from ruining their night.

In truth, that never looked likely and despite the disappointment of conceding so late on, Liverpool will now head into Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash at Chelsea safe in the knowledge that they are still well on course to qualify for the knockout stages.

As expected, the Reds were treated to a deafening reception from a home crowd with a reputation for their intimidating atmosphere, but they remained unfazed and could have silenced them within three minutes of the kick-off.

keanemadrid9Full-back Andrea Dossena made a buccaneering run to the by-line and although he played a devilish ball across the six yard box there was no Liverpool player in sight to apply the finish.

It proved to be the highlight of a scrappy opening in which the Reds looked the more purposeful and although Los Rojiblancos went close through Pongolle's header it was no surprise when the away side broke to snatch the lead on 14 minutes.

As ever, Steven Gerrard was at the heart of it, receiving a pass just inside the Atletico half and releasing a sublime first-time ball for Keane to race on to and coolly slip his effort beyond the advancing Leo Franco.

It was a killer ball we saw so often last season courtesy of the Torres-Gerrard link-up, but this time it was the Irishman who was the beneficiary, gleefully notching what is only his second goal in a red shirt.

It was the perfect start for Rafa and co and it should really have got better on 23 minutes but Keane's attempted flick went horribly wrong after Gerrard had again provided the ammunition with a raking cross from the right.

For their part, Atletico struggled to create an opening of any significance in the first 45 but they could have sneaked an equaliser on 40 minutes when former Manchester United forward, Diego Forlan, fizzed a 30 yarder just wide of Pepe Reina's far post.

It was a warning shot that gave the Reds something to ponder at the interval and the second-half introduction of Argentine starlet Sergio Aguero gave some indication of Atletico's attacking intentions.

However, Liverpool have shown over the years that they can travel to some of Europe's most daunting venues and emerge victorious, and they were almost celebrating a second on 48 minutes but Yossi Benayoun's cute finish was ruled out for offside.

The Israeli then found himself in on goal just 10 minutes later but he took too long to get his shot away and a good opportunity was wasted.

It was a let off that seemed to spark the hosts into life and after Giourkas Seitaridis had a goal ruled out for offside, the Reds were left breathing a huge sigh of relief when Reina somehow got the faintest of fingertips to Simao's shot to push the ball on to the post.

The Reds stopper was keen to maintain a shut-out in front of his father Miguel and with Jamie Carragher in imperious form in front of him, he looked like doing it until Simao arrowed in an exquisite finish on 83 minutes to drag the hosts level following a lightning break.

Substitute Ryan Babel then had a glorious chance to win it on 89 minutes but he somehow headed his close range effort wide of the near post leaving the Reds to settle for a hard-fought point.


Liverpool: Reina, Dossena, Carragher, Agger, Arbeloa, Riera, Alonso, Mascherano, Benayoun, Gerrard (captain), Keane. Subs - Darby, Aurelio, Babel, Leiva, Cavalieri, Kuyt, Pennant

Atletico Madrid: Franco, Lopez (captain), Camacho, Perea, Seitaridis, Garcia, , Dominguez, , Sinama-Pongolle, Forlan. Subs - Bernabe, Garcia, Assuncao, Heitinga, Pernia, , Aguero

Referee: Claus Bo Larsen (Den) Man-of-the-Match: Jamie Carragher


Video Clip : Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool

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Liverpool Goal : Robbie Keane (14') | Rapidshare | Mediafire

Atletico Goal : Simao (83')| Rapidshare | Mediafire

Highlights Video : Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool
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Full Match Video : Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool
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