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).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?