Calamity Kop: Adrian's howler sparks extra-time goal-fest as Atletico end Liverpool's Champions League reign

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Adrian hides his head in his hands after gifting Atletico Madrid a goal - GETTY IMAGES
Adrian hides his head in his hands after gifting Atletico Madrid a goal - GETTY IMAGES
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As Liverpool know, the difference can be the goalkeeper. Adrian has previously proved to be an able deputy for the injured Alisson but he was sadly at fault as Atletico Madrid remarkably scored three extra-time goals. And so Liverpool will be champions of Europe no more.

At the other end of the pitch stood Jan Oblak, who can lay claim with Alisson to be called the world’s best goalkeeper, and although the Slovenian was beaten twice he produced save after stunning save to deny wave after relentless wave of Liverpool attacks. There were 26 efforts on target from Jurgen Klopp’s side in the 90 minutes of normal time and Oblak repelled all but one.

It means that Liverpool have gone out of the Champions League and the FA Cup within eight days and have lost four of their last six games. It again puts into perspective Manchester United’s treble-winning achievement in 1998-1999.

For Liverpool this is still a historic, wonderful season, and fingers crossed it will be completed despite the coronavirus crisis as they have run away with the Premier League, but it was still a shock to see them go out of this competition and in this manner.

There will be no triumphant return to Istanbul where the final is to be held, no echoes of the 2005 final, no third Champions League Final in a row. This time the miracle belonged to Atletico.

Diego Simeone celebrates a remarkable comeback - GETTY IMAGES
Diego Simeone celebrates a remarkable comeback - GETTY IMAGES

While Liverpool won it last year in Madrid – in Atletico’s stadium, of course – they were beaten in Kiev through mistakes by their then goalkeeper Loris Karius.

Adrian’s errors were not as catastrophic as Karius’s but it is not too harsh to say that if he had been in the Atletico goal and Oblak was playing for Liverpool then the scoreline would have been very different. Instead, Liverpool sorely missed Alisson who is out with a damaged hip. What a costly absence.

It also meant that Liverpool lost a two-legged European tie for the first time under Jurgen Klopp and, astonishingly, did so by being beaten in both legs. It was also the first European home game that Liverpool had lost since October 2014.

There was shell-shock afterwards. “It is difficult to explain these goals,” said a stunned Klopp, and he was right because there was little until the seventh minute of extra-time – 97 minutes in – to suggest that Atletico could do this. Two of their three goals were scored by substitute Marcos Llorente and to put that in perspective the 25-year-old has only scored three goals previously in his entire career. Here he struck twice in eight minutes.

It was a testimony to Atletico and to their charismatic coach Diego Simeone that they showed such reserves of resilience and belief to – effectively – be battered for so long and yet score four goals in the tie and three on the night and go through. Klopp admitted he is a “really bad loser” and that came out as he accused the divisive Simeone of not playing “proper football”.

It was defensively resolute football, however, with the centre-halves – Stefan Savic and Felipe – outstanding as they won header after header, and Thomas Partey a powerful figure in midfield.

And yet Liverpool scored their first goal, just before half-time, from a header as Georginio Wijnaldum met an excellent whipped cross by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – who was their best player – to guide the ball past Oblak. It came as a relief as Liverpool had dominated amid the anxiety of knowing that conceding the first goal would have made their task daunting.

Instead, they claimed it, and, led by the returning captain Jordan Henderson, it appeared only a matter of time before a second would follow especially as they approached the second-half with even greater intensity, chances falling to Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Oxlade-Chamberlain and also Andrew Robertson with the left-back reaching a deflected Salah shot only to head against the cross-bar.

Klopp had demanded another special night from the Kop and he got it. Liverpool’s fans were as overwhelming as their team and Atletico began to resemble a boxer on the ropes who was in danger of being stopped because the punishment was too severe. But also like a champion boxer they know how to turn to muscle memory and there was a warning of what might happen when, in injury-time, Saul Niguez headed home only for it to be ruled out for offside.

Football Nerd REFERRAL (Article)
Football Nerd REFERRAL (Article)

Still it did not appear to matter as Oblak was finally beaten again with Roberto Firmino meeting a Wijnaldum cross. His header came back off the post and the striker reacted quickly to volley it into the net for his first goal at Anfield in almost a year.

At that point the tie seemed over. Atletico, surely, could find no way back? Anfield was in full voice when Adrian had an apparently routine clearance, but, with Virgil van Dijk pointing the direction in which he should send the ball, he inexplicably went the other way and gave it straight to Joao Felix who found Llorente. He steadied himself and curled a low shot from the edge of the penalty area which Adrian should have saved only for the stand-in goalkeeper to lose his footing.

There was a stunned silence but, still, no need for panic. Even so, Liverpool over-committed and substitute Alvaro Morata broke and cleverly found Llorente with a square pass infield. Suddenly he was faced with Joe Gomez and the recovering Henderson but smartly bent the ball around them to catch out Adrian.

There were 15 minutes left, and Liverpool have retrieved such apparently lost causes before, but those hopes were ended when, in the 120th minute, Llorente and Morata exchanged passes for the former Chelsea striker too easily beat the hapless Adrian.

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