Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid sparked a frenzy inside the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium as a raucous home crowd were able to put Los Rojiblancos into a commanding 1-0 lead at the halfway mark of this Champions League last-16 tie.

MADRID, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 18: Diego Pablo Simeone, head coach of Atletico de Madrid celebrates the victory after the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Atletico Madrid and Liverpool FC at Wanda Metropolitano on February 18, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

The Argentine manager whipped his troops into position to inspire a defensive masterclass from the Spanish giants. Liverpool huffed and puffed but inevitably were able to conjure up very little on their return to the city that holds beautiful memories for Liverpudlians.

It was to be expected before a ball was even kicked as the boisterous home supporters turned out in their thousands to welcome their team bus, turning the Madrid night a deep shade of red with their flares and fireworks.

Simeone epitomised this engulf of chaos – the ringleader for the madness that transpired in what can only be described as one of the best atmospheres in European football. The Argentine probably covered more ground than the players sprawling up and down the touchline barking instructions to his comrades.

Ironically, it was Saul Niguez, the on-field embodiment of his manager’s beliefs and aspirations after the Spaniard notched home the winning-goal inside five minutes.

It was the ultimate remedy for disastrous gifting a team as dogged and robust as Simeone’s juggernaut an early lead to protect. Any notions to play things tight and compact, control the game, and contain the Atletico threat were promptly thrown out the window.

Atletico didn’t just get a goal against Liverpool, they tore up the gameplans of both teams as Saul’s early strike completely drained the life from this opening knockout bout.

MADRID, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 19: Virgil Van Dijk of Liverpool gestures during the UEFA Champions League football match, round 16, played between Atletico de Madrid and Liverpool FC at Wanda Metropolitano stadium on February 19, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Oscar J. Barroso / AFP7 / Europa Press Sports via Getty Images)

It was ultimately an unfamiliar feeling for Liverpool. The Reds don’t lose often, and they certainly don’t enjoy the feeling. They’re the team that always finds a way, but they didn’t here.

 

Atletico got their early lead and sat back and absorbed the pressure like men possessed. To their credit, it was a blueprint to success that not even Klopp’s ‘mentality monsters’ could find a way to adapt to.

In 12 previous home Champions League knockout games for Atletico, Los Rojiblancos had conceded only twice, and they extended their run here. Remarkably, Klopp’s team failed to muster one solitary effort on target across the whole of the 90 minutes – only the second time this has happened in 251 games under the German manager’s stewardship.

As for this tie, it remains very much in the balance. Liverpool have been here before and against much better opposition at that.

The power of Anfield will be required once again.

 

 

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