Liverpool in driving seat despite loss in Madrid - European - Football - The Independent

Liverpool in driving seat despite loss in Madrid

Atletico Madrid 1 Liverpool 0

Liverpool failed to gain any reward for their valiant efforts in making the long-haul trip to Madrid as a familiar foe gave Atletico a 1-0 victory in their Europa League semi-final first leg.

Former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan hit a scrappy winner in only the ninth minute but the tie is far from over and even without an away goal Rafael Benitez's side will be optimistic of overturning the result at Anfield next week.

The Reds missed their injured striker Fernando Torres almost as much as the former darling of the Vicente Calderon missed the chance to face his old club, having also been denied that opportunity in the Champions League last season because of more fitness problems.

Benitez had insisted the 1,200-mile journey by coach, train and eventually plane - after UEFA's insistence the match go ahead despite the volcanic ash cloud which grounded flights across Europe - had brought his squad closer together.

If only his defence had been tighter-knit in the ninth minute then they may not have conceded.

No one will ever really know whether their exertions in getting to the Spanish capital had an effect but it was a sloppy piece of marking which cost them.

Forlan became something of a cult hero among United fans with both goals in a 2-1 victory at Anfield in 2002, albeit assisted, it has to be said, by Reds goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek.

And it was he who returned to haunt the Merseysiders when Jose Manuel Jurado's cross from the left dropped over Jamie Carragher and picked him out on the edge of the six-yard area.

His first attempt at a header was reminiscent of those early United days when he earned the nickname "Diego Forlorn" because of his difficulty in scoring.

However, the Uruguayan is a better, more experienced - and even luckier - player now and as ball from his duffed header dropped right at his feet he poked it home off goalkeeper Jose Reina.

Had Yossi Benayoun enjoyed a similar slice of good fortune a minute later from Dirk Kuyt's cross his header would have nestled in the net instead of flying wide of the far post.

The Israeli beat Atletico goalkeeper David de Dea eight minutes later but again the luck was against him, this time by virtue of a wrong offside decision.

Kuyt's mis-hit shot bobbled into the penalty area where Benayoun slotted the ball home only to be denied by an erroneous flag, as television replays proved.

Still Liverpool came forward and Steven Gerrard should have done better moments later when Lucas Leiva put him through only for the captain to shoot left-footed into the side-netting when he should have least hit the target.

But Atletico's threat had not diminished and their neat triangles in the final third of the pitch often cut open the visitors' defence.

Even right-back Tomas Ujfalusi got in on the act, weaving into the penalty area before shooting into the side-netting five minutes before half-time.

Forlan fluffed another a good chance soon after the break when he was put through on the edge of the penalty area but it was Reina's brilliance in producing a one-handed save which denied one-time Liverpool target Simao from Ujfalusi's cross.

The goalkeeper came to his side's rescue again as he beat away Ujfalusi's long-range strike and Carragher cleared as Atletico regained the initiative.

But Liverpool's experience and proud history, this match seeing them become the first English club to play in 16 European semi-finals, ensured they made a fight of it and, more importantly, did not concede again.

Of those 16 last-four encounters they have lost only four overall and their record when playing semi-final second legs at home is seven victories and one draw.

That statistic alone shows the power of Anfield on European nights.

Time will only tell how much Liverpool's long-distance travails on train, coach and plane cost them.

But, with fourth place in the Barclays Premier League looking beyond them, anything other than victory next week is likely to bring their season to a premature end.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
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.

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week