Atletico edge Liverpool with vintage defensive display
Champions League holders Liverpool will need to summon another famous European comeback at Anfield next month after they were beaten 1-0 away to Atletico Madrid in their last-16 first leg on Tuesday.
Spain midfielder Saul Niguez struck the only goal of the game in the fourth minute by bundling into the net from close range following a corner, their traditional weapon of choice in recent years.
Liverpool, who have won 25 of 26 Premier League games this season and are on course for a record-smashing title win, missed a series of chances to equalise in the second half, with Mohamed Salah and captain Jordan Henderson coming closest to scoring.
Juergen Klopp's side play at home to Atletico on March 11 in the return leg at Anfield, where they produced an incredible 4-0 win over Barcelona in last year's semi-final second leg after losing the first match 3-0.
"We gave them the best possible start and that gets the fans behind them and then they start falling over and getting under the skin a bit," Liverpool defender Andrew Robertson told reporters.
"We put in a decent performance and we know we can be better. We've got a second leg to put it right. They celebrated as if they won the tie after the game. They are coming to Anfield and we know our fans will be there."
Diego Simeone's men have looked nothing like the sides that reached the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals and challenged Real Madrid and Barcelona's duopoly of La Liga for most of this campaign. They trail league leaders Real by 13 points.
But on Tuesday they produced a vintage defensive display, sitting deep and barely giving Liverpool any space for their attacking trident of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane to work their usual magic.
"This is the result of hard work and what happens when you never stop believing but keep on going," match-winner Saul told reporters.
"We have kept on working even though no-one believes in us and wants to bring us down. I celebrated the goal with so much passion because I was so up for the game, we have been criticised a lot but luckily I was able to help us out."
Atletico's Wanda Metropolitano stadium was the scene of Liverpool's 2-0 triumph over Tottenham Hotspur in last year's final but they faced a very different type of atmosphere this time around.
Clouds of billowing red smoke greeted the Atletico bus when it arrived at the ground as the home supporters stoked up a scorching atmosphere throughout the game to give their side a lift in the middle of their worst season in recent memory.
The home side were happy to let Liverpool dominate possession but despite having 73 per cent of the ball, Klopp's side did not manage a single shot on target, although Atletico defender Felipe did block a goalbound shot from Salah in the first half.
Atletico only had one other attempt aside from their goal, when Alvaro Morata fired straight at the legs of Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson.
Liverpool forward Mane was fortunate not to be sent off late in the first half after clashing with Sime Vrsaljko while on a yellow card and he was swiftly substituted by Klopp for Divock Origi, who scored the second goal in last year's final.
He caused little disquiet to Atletico's towering defenders, yet Salah should have levelled with a header which went wide of the near post, while Henderson also narrowly missed the target from inside the area later on.
Sensational Haaland gives Dortmund 2-1 win over PSG
Borussia Dortmund’s lethal teenage striker Erling Haaland scored twice in eight minutes to lead them to a 2-1 win over Paris St Germain in their Champions League last 16, first leg on Tuesday.
The Norwegian, 19, who joined in the last transfer window and has eight goals in five Bundesliga matches, stabbed in from close range after a quick-fire passing move in the 69th minute.
He then thundered home an unstoppable shot for his second goal in the 77th, two minutes after PSG’s Brazilian forward Neymar had levelled for the French champions.
Haaland, the first Dortmund player to score in his first league, German Cup and Champions League matches, has reached 10 goals in seven games in Europe’s elite competition this season, including eight for Salzburg in the group stage, faster than anyone.
He is only the second teenager to net 10 Champions League goals, after Kylian Mbappe, and is the first teenager to score 10 in a single campaign in the competition.
He is also the first player to score with two different teams in the same season in the competition.
“I still need to improve, keep working,” Haaland said. “I want to go far in the Champions League. With the second goal I enjoyed the moment.”
PSG, who were eliminated at this stage of the competition in the previous three seasons, had fit-again Neymar and French striker Mbappe back in the starting lineup but were almost completely shut out by an efficient Dortmund backline.
“Obviously, maybe we deserved the draw but Dortmund were very good,” said PSG defender Thomas Meunier.
“They didn’t lose one game here at home this season and we saw today it is so difficult. We thought they had defensive problems, but we didn’t create many chances.”
In a cautious first half the French side had the slight advantage in possession but Dortmund carved out the only real chance after 27 minutes with a curled shot from Jadon Sancho.
Mbappe and Neymar were kept under tight surveillance, with Dortmund defenders Mats Hummels, Lukasz Piszczek — on his 350th appearance for the club in all competitions — and Dan Axel Zagadou denying the pair any space to manoeuvre.
The Germans’ main source of firepower, the livewire Haaland, was also shackled for about an hour before finally finding some space to instinctively round off a quick Dortmund move.
PSG, who will be without midfielder Marco Verratti and Meunier for the return leg after they picked up bookings, drew level through Neymar, who found the net after a fine run down the right by Mbappe. The Brazilian also later hit the post.
But the visitors could do nothing when 17-year-old substitute Giovanni Reyna found Haaland on the edge of the box and the prolific forward released a fiercely struck left-foot shot that gave PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas no chance.
“Everyone played an outstanding game,” Dortmund midfielder Emre Can said. “But it was important that we all defended extremely well. It was a big statement from the team, but we know it is not the end, it is just halftime.”