Liverpool ‘lost the plot’ after being rocked by Atalanta in Europa League quarterfinal

Liverpool and its manager Jürgen Klopp were left stunned after losing 3-0 at home in the first leg of its Europa League quarterfinal against Italian side Atalanta on Thursday.

Atalanta, currently sixth in Serie A, could have scored more at Anfield had it not been for Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher.

Given Liverpool’s formidable form in the English Premier League – Klopp’s men are second with just goal difference separating them from table topping Arsenal – very few would have seen this result coming, and it leaves Liverpool with a mountain to climb in the second leg on April 18 if the Reds are to progress to the semifinals.

“We can make the shortest press conference of all time, it just was a really bad game, oh my God,” Klopp told reporters after what could have been his last European night at Anfield.

“I think even before they scored we just lost the plot a little bit, like we were everywhere and nowhere.”

A result no one saw coming

The game had started at a frantic pace with both sides having opportunities to score.

Atalanta came closest, denied in the third minute by a stunning save from Kelleher. The Irishman rushed off his line with Mario Pašalić seemingly certain to score, blocking the shot with his face.

Liverpool then started growing into the game and missed a number of chances to score, Darwin Núñez getting his finish all wrong before Harvey Elliot hit the woodwork in the 26th minute.

But Atalanta broke the deadlock in the 38th minute when Gianluca Scamacca’s effort found a way past Kelleher.

The goalkeeper probably should have done better, but he quickly redeemed himself with another smart save against Teun Koopmeiners to stop Liverpool going 2-0 down moments before half time.

It was a memorable night for Atalanta. - Visionhaus/Getty Images
It was a memorable night for Atalanta. - Visionhaus/Getty Images

In search of an equalizer, Klopp introduced Mohamed Salah after the break and the Egyptian almost made an instant impact. His fine effort, though, was well saved by Juan Musso as Atalanta’s defence stood firm.

The extra attacking impetus from Liverpool seemed to play into Atalanta’s hands and Scamacca doubled his team’s lead on the hour mark after being left unmarked at the back post.

The goal sparked panic at Anfield as Liverpool went searching for a goal to help reduce the deficit. Salah thought he had done so in the 79th minute but the forward was flagged for offside.

The misery was only compounded as more defensive fragility from the host afforded Atalanta a chance to score its third – this time it was Pašalić who turned in the rebound after another smart save from Kelleher.

Atalanta players celebrated its famous Anfield win following the final whistle, but there is still another 90 minutes to play in Italy next week.

Liverpool does have a history of comebacks in Europe – not least when it turned over a 3-0 result against Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal in 2019.

Klopp, though, did not want to speculate on the return leg, focusing instead on Liverpool’s next Premier League fixture, against Crystal Palace, at the weekend.

“We try to win the game there and then we will see what we can do from there, but it’s now not the moment for having a big mouth,” he said.

“This was probably a low point for us performance-wise, I would say, for a long time, so I think it should be possible to play a little bit better. If we can play a little bit better then we can play much better as well.”

After Klopp announced his decision to step down as Liverpool manager at the end of the season, many involved with the club had hoped to send him off with another European trophy.

Fans had earmarked the Europa League final in Dublin, Ireland, as Klopp’s potential last game in charge, but those plans now seem in jeopardy.

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