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Salah silences Simeone

We won. We’re top of the group. Mo scored yet again. We’re almost certainly through, but, but, but…

But, for seventy minutes, back at the scene of our sixth European Cup success, we lacked maturity, game intelligence, basic nous, and looked surprised at the tactics of Diego Simeone’s Atletico, and almost threw away three points against ten men.

From the moment the game somehow arrived at 2-2, we fell into almost every trap set by Madrid. This, despite having gone two up after barely fifteen minutes, with a deflected shot by Mo Salah and a wonderful volleyed effort by Naby Keita.

Athletico had begun the game as if mesmerised by yellow shirts. They stood off, were content to merely camp outside their own penalty box, and rarely laid a glove on Liverpool. Perhaps more remarkably, there was silence in the ground, and by the time the endlessly frustrating Keita had added to Salah’s opener, with a right-footed volley to Oblaks left from fifteen yards, the proverbial pin being dropped could have been heard in the Wanda Metropolitana.

At this point, the constantly entertaining, and always irritated and irritating Simeone, cajoled the home supporters, Madrid played further forward, and then Athletico reverted to their decades-old MO. They harassed the referee, and the opposition, stole every yard possible, took a mile when given an inch, and dragged Liverpool into the sort of game that was inevitable, but one Klopp’s men simply didn’t look ready for.

The pattern resumed as the second half began, but with Jurgen Klopp having wisely substituted the defensively lethargic Naby, for the fit-again Fabinho. Though this enabled greater control in midfield for Liverpool, Madrid still looked the more likely scorers. That was until this most surprising of goal-laden Champions League games took an almost comical twist.

Trent, who’s stupidly and entirely unnecessarily had been booked for kicking the ball away, hit a ball more akin to rugby league into the Madrid box. It looked both hopeful and harmless until Humoso chose to clatter into Jota. After an age, whilst Madrid players whinged, moaned, complained into the referees face, Mo stroked home the penalty at the same end in which he opened the scoring against Spurs in Liverpool’s ninth European Cup Final just two years ago.

However, there was still time for Diogo Jota to give away a penalty at the other end. With far too many Liverpool players failing to rise above the antics of the home side, whilst simultaneously failing to show the same level of nous, a free-kick was conceded. The resulting free-kick was hit long into Liverpool’s box, and Jota was initially deemed to have fouled an onrushing Madrid player, yet, amazingly, having been urged by VAR to consult the screen, the referee, who’d earlier sent off Griezman, overruled his initial decision.

However, make no mistake, Liverpool got away with this one. At times we were not even ordinary. Thankfully, a brace for Salah silenced the ever petulant Simeone, who finished the evening by refusing to shake Klopp’s hand. In the process, Mo scored his ninth goal in nine games, making him Liverpool’s record Champions League scorer, and it ultimately gave Klopp’s men three points.

Russell Kennedy