Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Tuesday 04 November 2008 19:45 , Champions League Group Phase

Liverpool Leave It Late... Again!

A last-gasp penalty from Steven Gerrard, won in controversial circumstances by the player himself, was enough for Liverpool to grab a point from a pulsating encounter against Atlético Madrid at Anfield...

Liverpool have managed to avoid back-to-back defeats, but only just. Despite dominating possession and territory for the duration of the encounter, they could not force an opening from a resilient, rigid and disciplined Atlético Madrid side, who played the 'away from home in Europe' formation to perfection for 93 minutes.

That was of course, until deep into injury time when Liverpool were awarded a dubious penalty.With his team behind and Atlético on the brink of a last 16 place, the England midfielder seemed to fall to the ground while Mariano Pernía attempted a headed challenge.

The referee's initial reluctance to offer a spot-kick was understandable but there was astonishment from all quarters when he eventually pointed to the spot on the advice of his assistant.

Rafa Benitez's side got off the hook.
Team News

Robbie Keane took on the mantle of lone striker as Fernando Torres' head ruled over his heart and the Spaniard decided himself that he was not fit to take part.

Aside from El Niño, Liverpool had a full complement from which to choose with Fabio Aurelio being preferred to Andrea Dossena at left back.

Atlético set their stall out with a 4-5-1 designed to frustrate their hosts, and were reliant on their ability to soak up pressure while putting their superior technique into practice at the times of their intermittent possession.

Accordingly, the home side were afforded the bulk of the first half possession but could not make their presence count in the final third of the field.

All too often in the attacking segment, the Reds saw their offensive possession reach an impasse in the shape of a sturdy back-four protected capably by Paulo Assunçao.

First Half

As early as the first minute, Liverpool raided on the Atlético goal; Fabio Aurelio's corner was met sloppily by Robbie Keane who deflected the ball towards Dan Agger in the six yard box. The Dane fell under the slightest touch of Antonio Lopez and missed the opportunity to shoot.

Robbie Keane, released by Xabi Alonso just after the ten minute mark, peeled away from the leaden footed John Heitinga and controlled well on the chest before firing wide.

Atlético proved themselves capable of attacking with thrust in their own right, and Simao fired a warning shot when Mariano Pernía centred from the left after los Colchoneros countered a Liverpool counter on 18 minutes.

Prominent for ball-hogging Liverpool at this stage was Alonso who pulled the strings in midfield and attempted to stir the team-mates in front of him.

One of his passes from the right dipped viciously over the Atlético back-line on 25 minutes but Albert Riera's momentum prevented true contact and the ball flew over.

Riera then laid a deft touch to Steven Gerrard just after the half hour on the edge of the Atléti D but Luis Perea's vital touch took it from the captain.

A minute later, Keane was released by Alvaro Arbeloa's long ball into the right channel as Heitinga was again caught out; the Irishman tried to round Leo Franco but the Argentinean made a decent block as the visitors held strong.

Their tactic paid dividends before half-time as they took advantage of the time given to them by the Reds. Heitinga's long ball found Antonio Lopez on the right wing in the absence of the attack-minded Fabio Aurelio at left-back.

His immaculate first touch gave him space to find Maxi Rodriguez charging into the Liverpool area. His controlling touch left Jamie Carragher on his heels; his next was an angled drive into Pepe Reina's corner that silenced the Kop and had El Niño squirming in his seat.

Second Half

Atlético were content to stick with the plan as the second half ensued and once again, Liverpool's territorial dominance produced a penalty shout at the beginning of the period.

On this occasion, Luis Perea saw the ball ricochet of his hand while attempting to control with Robbie Keane in attendance but once again a decision was unforthcoming.

Liverpool continued to raid without genuine penetration but were close to a breakthrough with a set piece just before the hour; Fabio Aurelio's free-kick from the right met Dan Agger rising but his header was narrowly off target.

The same player reacted smartly to Dirk Kuyt's knock-down minutes later in the box but fired his volley straight at the goalkeeper.

By that stage, the visitors offered Liverpool a reminder to keep the backdoor closed with a swathing counter attack. Simao, Raul Garcia and Diego Forlan all combined to ramapge through the centre and left, but the Uruguayan's cross was blocked by Carragher before it reached Garcia in the middle of the box.

As the Reds continued to maraud into enemy territory to little avail, the target appeared to become smaller. The frame of the goal was deceptively large for Steven Gerrard as he swapped a delightful one-two with Robbie Keane on the edge of the box before curling over on 65 minutes.

Despite the lack of Javier Aguirre on their bench, Atléti stuck rigidly to the task and continued to shut out their hosts. Rafa Benitez shuffled his deck in an attempt to summon a leveller, but Ryan Babel, David Ngog and Lucas Leiva did not have the credentials to haul the side back into the game.

Atlético had a trump card of their own to play; Kun Aguero was introduced from the bench to sharpen the attacking spear at the disposal of the Mattress Men.

He bothered Dan Agger in the 78th minute before squaring across the area to Maxi Rodriguez with the English side light on number at the back. The skipper's centre was intercepted by Jamie Carragher who certainly made hand-to-ball contact as he snuffed out the danger.

The game was spread wide open by this stage with Liverpool committing a good deal of their number forward; Steven Gerrard's cross-box header was well fielded by Leo Franco from a free-kick with ten minutes to play.

Ngog's quick feet found space on 82 minutes while accompanied by Pernia on the byline and the Frenchman made an angle to shoot. He forced a corner from which Daniel Agger was guilty of the most rudimentary of misses.

Aurelio's corner swerved into the area and after shuffling away the attentions of Perea, the Dane headed inexplicably off-target from only five yards.

Carragher was the next of the Liverpool ranks to try his luck; he jinked his way into space and unleashed a left-footed rasper from distance which stung the palms of Franco.

And then, with seconds to play, Liverpool were again handed a reprieve through Steven Gerrard. So often Liverpool's saviour, the captain won a penalty in controversial circumstances.

Going for a header in the area with Mariano Pernía, the Liverpool skipper, appeared, if anything to foul the defender, but instead went down. The referee deliberated and eventually pointed to the spot to the astonishment of the visitors; There was no mistake from Gerrard who sent Franco the wrong way and keep Group D in the balance.

Pernía, Heitinga and Aguero were all booked for their protests in the wake of the goal as the Mattress Men felt that they were well and truly robbed.


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

Atletico Madrid: Franco, Lopez, Pernia, Heitinga, Perea, , Assuncao, , Rodriguez (captain), Forlan, Garcia. Subs - Garcia, Aguero, Sinama-Pongolle, Ibanez, Camacho, Banega, Coupet

Referee: Martin Hansson (SWE)

Man-of-the-Match: Steven Gerrard

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Goals Video Clip : Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid
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Steven Gerrard [pen.] (90+') | Zshared | Rapidshare | Deposit files

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


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