Atletico Madrid takes first leg versus Liverpool

Nicholas Mendola
NBC Sports

Saul Niguez scored in the fourth minute and Atletico Madrid blanked and frustrated Liverpool in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg on Tuesday in Spain.

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Liverpool had 73 percent of the ball but failed to put any of its eight shots on target, including a cherry chance for Mohamed Salah to head home an equalizer.

The sides meet again at 4 p.m. ET March 11 at Anfield.

Three things we learned

1. Mane, Salah struggle: This was a not a banner day for two of the best wingers in the world. Mohamed Salah missed one solid and one excellent chance to score an away goal, and won just 2 of 8 duels. Mane was nearly as poor, taking a silly yellow card before being removed at halftime with a 2 of 9 record in duels.

2. Lodi locks down the left: Atleti’s 21-year-old left back may’ve signed from Brazilian club Athletico Paranaense this summer, but he looks like he’s been in Diego Simeone’s system since he was an academy kid. Lodi recorded six tackles, two clearances, two interceptions, 10-of-12 duels won and a key pass.

3. The bounce goes against Liverpool: So many times this season, the Reds have seemingly willed a decisive bounce in their direction. It’s hard to fault Fabinho for a ball bounding off him and onto the path of Saul, but that’s why this match is 1-0. Just luck.


Man of the Match: Saul and Thomas Partey were terrific in the heart of Atleti’s midfield, and Saul gets our nod given his goal. He was 5-for-5 in dribbles, passed at 85 percent, won 10-of-12 duels, and had three clearances, two interceptions, and two tackles.

Atletico were all over the visitors, and an early corner got them on the board when Saul cleaned up a mess at the near post.

It was the first goal conceded by Liverpool in 379 minutes, according to the broadcast.

The Reds had almost all of the ball but had trouble with Atleti’s disciplined shape, and a Renan Lodi cross was almost enough for Alvaro Morata to make it 2-0.

Virgil Van Dijk‘s failed clearance led to an Alvaro Moarata acute-angled shot, but Alisson Becker dealt with it.

Jan Oblak gave the ball away at the other end and the ball ended up in his net, but Mohamed Salah was offside when Fabinho hit him with a quick pass.

Liverpool had another chance in the 29th minute, but Andy Robertson spun his shot wide of the frame.

Trent Alexander-Arnold served up a couple of unsuccessful corners soon after Salah screwed a quality opportunity well over the goal.

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Atleti was attacking again early in the second half, and a rare Andy Robertson error was bailed out by poor control in the final third.

Salah headed wide when Joe Gomez charged forward to send in a perfect back post cross.

Lodi then set up Morata for a glorious chance near the penalty spot. The ex-Chelsea man flubbed it in spectacular fashion.

Jordan Henderson missed another prime chance to get an away goal, as the Reds’ luck just wasn’t in Madrid.


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