Source: China State Council Information Office
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone defended his side’s approach after being accused by self-confessed “bad loser” Jurgen Klopp of not “playing proper football” following the Spanish side’s Champions League victory at Liverpool on Wednesday.
Dogged Atletico’s 3-2 victory after extra time saw it progress to the quarterfinals 4-2 on aggregate.
Last year’s winner Liverpool looked to have ended Atletico’s resistance when Roberto Firmino put the Reds ahead after Gini Wijnaldum’s first-half header forced the second leg into an extra 30 minutes.
However, Liverpool was made to rue a host of missed chances as Marcos Llorente twice curled home from outside the box before Alvaro Morata twisted the knife by breaking away to score in added time of the extra period.
Defeat ends Klopp’s record of never losing a two-legged European tie as Liverpool manager and afterward he took a swipe of Atletico’s defensive tactics.
“The way they play, I don’t get it,” said Klopp. “They could play proper football but they stand deep and have counterattacks.”
It remains to be seen if and when Atletico will play in the last eight due to the chaos caused across the continent by the new coronavirus.
But Simeone basked in another famous European night for the side he has twice led to the final in his eight years in charge.
“We play to win, with the weapons that we have,” said Simeone. “Respecting our identity, the characteristics of our players and exploiting the defects of our rivals.”
Klopp did not concur, telling BT Sport:”I realize I am a really bad loser, especially when the boys put such an effort in against world-class players on the other side who defend with two rows of four.”
The loss ended Liverpool’s bid for a third successive Champions League final appearance.
“It doesn’t feel right. I’m searching for the right words to be honest. The 90 minutes were exceptional,” the German added.
A packed Anfield played its part in trying to roar Liverpool onto another Champions League conquest as, unlike in numerous countries across Europe, no restrictions have so far been put on supporters attending games in Britain.
But it was the nearly 3,000 traveling fans in attendance, despite the fact games in Spain will be played behind closed doors for the next two weeks, that celebrated a stoic rearguard display from their side.
The European champion did not manage a single shot on target in a 1-0 defeat in Madrid three weeks ago, but goalkeeper Jan Oblak was quickly put to work.
But Oblak was helpless as Liverpool leveled the tie just before halftime through Wijnaldum’s powerful downward header.
The goal did not change Atletico’s approach as it played a risky game and relied on Oblak to keep it in the game.
The Slovenian saved from Mo Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Firmino, while Andy Robertson hit the bar as Liverpool missed a number of chances that ultimately came back to cost it.
“I have no doubt Oblak is the best goalkeeper in the world,” added Atletico boss Simeone.
Despite Liverpool being on the brink of a first Premier League title in 30 years, striker Firmino had not scored at home all season until four minutes into extra time.
The Brazilian’s header from Wijnaldum’s cross came off the post and perfectly back into his path to slot home with Oblak grounded.
“Everybody who saw the game tonight knows it could have been different,” said Klopp.
“I loved our first 90 minutes, but we scored the second goal too late.”
However, no sooner had Liverpool gone in front for the first time in the tie than Atletico hit back with a sucker punch.
The visitor had barely tested stand-in Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian, but the loss of Alisson Becker to a hip injury eventually proved Liverpool’s downfall.
Adrian fired a simple clearance straight to Joao Felix, who fed Llorente and he coolly found the bottom corner.
“The pass was not helpful. Adrian is a super player, I love the boy, but in this moment, it is the wrong decision,” added Klopp.
Llorente had joined Atletico from bitter rival Real Madrid in a controversial move in June.
But the man whose father, Paco, and great uncle, Francisco Gento, also played for Real, made himself a Rojiblanco hero with a second that secured Atletico’s place in the last eight with a precise low finish.
Another former Real player Morata then broke away and finished calmly to inflict Liverpool’s first Champions League home defeat since 2014.
Runaway leader Liverpool is scheduled to resume its Premier League campaign against Merseyside rival Everton at Goodison Park next Monday. The Reds lead secondplace defending champion Manchester City by 25 points.