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Atletico 1 Liverpool 0: Klopp’s Reds caught napping as Saul’s strike secures Simeone’s first leg Champions League lead

THEY do breathe the same air as the rest of us, after all.

Over these last few months, Jurgen Klopp’s team have appeared chillingly super-human and potentially invincible in the Premier League.

But here, Liverpool returned to the scene of their sixth European title and found Diego Simeone’s uncompromising Atletico team a different proposition to Spurs last June.

No shots on target from the visitors told you everything you need to know.

This was a tactical masterclass from Atletico coach Simeone on how to park the bus and his side also wasted some good chances.

During the game, Simeone went through the full range of touchline theatrics while Klopp looked underwhelmed and subdued.

Beaten by a fourth minute goal from Spanish midfielder Saul, Liverpool must summon the spirit of Barcelona where they turned a 3-0 first leg defeat and certain elimination to a heroic and frankly ridiculous second leg four-goal win - and that golden ticket to the final.

Whether they will be back in Istanbul in May remains to be seen. Yet while this was a disappointing performance from Klopp’s side, particularly defensively - not just up front - as Liverpool made mistakes completely out of character.

Nevertheless, you would still fancy them to reach the quarter-finals despite this loss in the Spanish capital.

The Reds do struggle on their travels in the Champions League. They lost four away games last season and were also beaten by Napoli in September, the senior team’s only loss this season.

It is, however, Fortress Anfield which will once again determine their progress in the competition.

Atletico had kept 10 clean sheets in their previous 11 Champions League knockout matches and as soon they scored, Liverpool faced an even more hellish task.

England defender Kieran Trippier will have been gutted at missing out on this match due to a groin injury while this match also game too soon for crocked £113million star Joao Felix.

Diego Costa, out since November with a back injury, returned to the bench and was chomping at the bit before being unleashed with 13 minutes left.

Atletico coach Simeone promised that the stadium would “explode” and this is exactly what happened in less than four minutes.

The Wanda Metropolitana is a large but soulless lump of concrete. Even so, although it is less than four miles from Madrid’s Barajas airport, some of the passengers would probably have heard the racket when Atletico took the lead.

Liverpool found themselves under intense early pressure and had not even got out of their half before failing to deal with a corner from skipper Koke.

The ball came off Fabinho’s foot and it fell perfectly for Saul who could certainly not miss. Equally, he was thankful to Van Dijk who was playing him onside.

This was the battle between arguably the world’s best two keepers, Alisson and Slovenian Jan Oblak and there was absolutely nothing Liverpool’s number one could do about that.

On the rare occasions Alisson’s team did break free and get forward, Simeone’s side dropped so deep and virtually the entire team got behind the ball.

Klopp’s team managed just one touch inside the 18-yard box in the first 30 minutes. That probably tells you why Atletico have only conceded 17 goals in La Liga this season.

But Atletico looked dangerous each time they surged forward. Andy Robertson did extremely well to turn away an awkward pass from Thomas Lemar that would have been a perfect chance for Alvaro Morata.

The former Chelsea striker should have added a second goal after a mistake by van Dijk. He turned Fabinho but then had an effort blocked by Alisson.

Mo Salah had an effort ruled out for offside on Bobby Firmino and the Egpytian striker would ordinarily scored with another chance soon after but defender Felipe flung his body at the shot in what was a stunning block.

At half-time, the stats told us that Liverpool had 71 per cent possession but they had moved the ball too slowly and found very few spaces.

Sadio Mane had been booked for a flailing arm in the 40th minute and then just avoided a second caution soon after.

With Atletico likely to keep winding him up, he was replaced at the break by Divock Origi for the second half.

Liverpool played with more purpose and Salah looked disgusted with himself after failing to score with a header following a decent cross from Joe Gomez. And Salah could not have had too many complaints at being replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as he was poor.

Morata had a great chance to make it 2-0 but he slipped while Jordan Henderson volleyed wide.

And that was the last we saw of skipper Henderson as he was replaced with 10 minutes after being caught.

He certainly left the pitch in different fashion compared to the Champions League final when ran over to his embrace his father after lifting the trophy.

However, all is not lost for Liverpool.  They have got out of these tight corners before and have every chance of doing it again. But against old master Simeone, they will have to box clever.

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