Fortune favours Liverpool

Liverpool 1 Atletico Madrid 1

There are heroic late comebacks and then there are games when plain old luck, courtesy of an atrocious refereeing decision, gets you out of a hole. Anfield, full of fair-minded football folk, will recognise that Liverpool were the beneficiaries of the latter last night when the Swedish referee Martin Hansson awarded Steven Gerrard a late penalty that even the Kop was almost too embarrassed to appeal for.

The Atletico fans might wonder this morning whether the Hanssons of Sweden are in any way related to the Alan Hansens of Liverpool – so bad was the referee's decision. When Gerrard jumped into the Atletico defender Mariano Pernia in injury-time, Hansson took ages to make up his mind. It turned out that he had actually taken momentary leave of his senses and, in awarding the penalty, changed the game in an instant.

Gerrard smashed home the penalty, Liverpool's fourth late comeback this season, although his team escaped with a lot more than a draw. Another late Gerrard rescue act meant that all the old problems that are nagging away at the Benitez regime this season, were papered over by a dramatic late finish. As in their defeat to Tottenham on Saturday, Liverpool did not look like a team capable of carrying all before them.

Certainly not Robbie Keane whose finishing was nothing like that of Maxi Rodriguez, who took Atletico's goal beautifully in the 37th minute. The £20m Liverpool striker was substituted again last night – the 12th time in 14 games that he has not finished the match – and he hardly looked pleased about it. That he was replaced by David N'Gog, 19-years-old, did not make it any easier to take. With Fernando Torres again in the stands, Liverpool were dismal in front of goal.

Torres, Benitez said, had not quite been fit enough to play but he should be in the team to play West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. As for the penalty, Benitez came up with a self-serving explanation for the justice of it, claiming that a handball by Luis Perea earlier in the second half should have been given. "That handball was very clear," Benitez said. "If this [Gerrard's collision with Pernia] had happened in the middle of the pitch it would have been a free-kick so it was a penalty."

Typically, Benitez saw this as a game which Liverpool had dominated and Atletico had stolen the odd chance on the counter-attack. "We were attacking and attacking all the time," he said. "We had some problems when they counter-attacked but we kept playing until the end. We have to keep that quality because that's the way to change results."

Benitez estimated that his team had come from behind late in the game "five or six times" already this season whereas in reality it is more like three – against Middlesbrough, Manchester City and Wigan – although it could be argued that this is more of a necessity than a quality. The chances that fell their way in the later stages of last night were not taken, three were squandered by Daniel Agger, and Atletico looked much more effective on the counter-attack. They may have sold Torres to Liverpool but Atletico still have the strength in depth to leave Diego Maradona's son-in-law, Sergio Aguero, on the substitutes bench until late in the game.

There was very little for Gerrard in the way of chances, although when there is a last-minute penalty to be dispatched there is no-one you would rather have to do the job. "I'll have to have another look at it [the foul for the penalty], but in my mind it was a penalty," Gerrard said. "I got there first and he came into the back of me. If it had happened anywhere else on the pitch it would be a free-kick, so it was a penalty.

"I can understand their disappointment because of the timing of it. If it had happened at the other end we would have been livid. But that's football. It was a big result for us and a big point. Good teams usually don't lose two games in a row and so it was important we got something."

If they beat Marseilles at home on 27 November – the French side are the last team to win in the Champions League at Anfield – then Liverpool will be in the knockout stages. How far they will go beyond there is by no means certain. Keane missed the best chance of the first half when he ran onto Xabi Alonso's throughball in the 33rd minute but allowed goalkeeper Leo Franco to save at his feet.

There was a lesson in finishing from Rodriguez before half-time, he took Antonio Lopez's cross into his stride beautifully and left Jamie Carragher in his wake before picking his spot past Pepe Reina. All hell broke loose after Gerrard's penalty award and four Atletico players' names went into the book. They were, as Gerrard said, livid, and in the circumstances you could not blame them.

Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina (Babel, 61); Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio; Alonso, Mascherano (Leiva, 77); Kuyt, Gerrard, Riera; Keane (N'Gog, 71). Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (gk), Dossena, Benayoun, Degen.

Atletico Madrid (4-4-2): Franco; Lopez, Heitinga, Perea, Pernia; Rodriguez, Assuncao, Maniche, Simao (L Garcia, 90); Forlan (Aguero, 71), R Garcia.

Substitutes not used: Coupet (gk), Aguero, Sinama-Pongolle, Banega, Ibanez, Camacho.

Referee: M Hansson (Swe)

Group D

Results: PSV Eindhoven 0 Atletico Madrid 3; Marseilles 1 Liverpool 2; Liverpool 3 PSV 0; Atletico Madrid 2 Marseilles 1; Atletico Madrid 1 Liverpool 1; PSV 2 Marseilles 0; Liverpool 1 Atletico Madrid 1; Marseilles 3 PSV 0.

Liverpool's remaining group stage fixtures: 26 Nov: Marseilles (h); 9 Dec: PSV Eindhoven (a).

Sport
Super BowlAfter Katy Perry madness it's back to The Independent's live coverage of Super Bowl 49!
News
See what Twitter had to say about the first half of the Super Bowl
News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium - they breathe better air, and eat better food, when they're not making beans on toast for their kids

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium

They breathe better air, eat better food, take better medicine
A generation of dropouts failed by colleges

Dropout generation failed by colleges

£800m a year wasted on students who quit courses before they graduate
Entering civilian life 'can be like going into the jungle' for returning soldiers

Homeless Veterans appeal

Entering civilian life can be like going into the jungle
Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Fifty Shades of Grey director on bringing the hit to the screen
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch