Champions League- Atletico Madrid 1 Liverpool 1

Dirk Kuyt and Jermaine Pennant are the two who drop to the substitutes' bench, meaning club manager Rafael Benitez will field Robbie Keane as a lone striker.

Liverpool starting eleven: Reina, Arbeloa, Dossena, Carragher, Agger, Mascherano, Alonso, Gerrard, Riera, Benayoun, Keane.

Robbie Keane’s first half strike was cancelled out by a late equalizer to Simao, as the two sides drew 1-1 at the Vincent Calderon in Madrid…

It was a night that was supposed to mark the emotional return of Fernando Torres, to his former hunting ground, the Vincent Calderon; however it wasn’t to be as injury struck the Spaniard just one week prior to the contest.

Torres opted to remain at home, as he declined an invite to be a VIP guest for the clash, in order to continue his recovery from a hamstring injury.

Rafa Benitez made some changes from the side that defeated Wigan 3-2 at the weekend, with Dirk Kuyt and Jermaine Pennant dropping to the bench, as Javier Mascherano and Yossi Benayoun were recalled to the starting eleven.

Robbie Keane started as the lone man up front, with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Alberto Riera playing in behind him.

For the home side astonishingly, two youth players were called into the starting eleven, with Alvaro Dominguez and Nacho Camacho taking their spots from the onset. Former Liverpool man Luis Garcia, as well as Florent Sinama-Pongolle will also play from the start, with the latter set to partner Diego Forlan in attack, whilst young gun Sergio Aguero is on the bench.

Javier Aguirre is aware of the fact that a fourth straight defeat will put his tenure at the club in further doubt, as his side has lost to Sevilla, Barcelona and Real Madrid in their past three domestic fixtures.

They will have their work cut out tonight, as they face a side who are unbeaten in 13 games in all competitions, and who are yet to drop any points in this competition to date.

First Half

Atletico Madrid got the first competitive match between the two clubs under way, and what a subdued start to the contest it was, as both sides took their time to get themselves into the contest.

From what we had seen in yesterday’s Champions League matches, many things were expected in this match, however with barely a single attempt at goal in the opening 10 minutes, the match was a dull affair early.

Simao sent in the first useful free kick of the match, which was met by youth player Ignacio Camacho, however nothing came from the first opportunity of the match – after 13 minutes of play.

Although, just one minute later, the deadlock was broken, as Robbie Keane was played in by a neat through ball from his skipper Steven Gerrard, and Keane did the rest, and unbelievably, Liverpool were on the score sheet. Neither side looked like scoring, and so a goal at that stage was highly unexpected.

Reds Denied By A Determined Atletico

Seitaridis tried to respond immediately for the home side; however his strike from long range was well off target, and was no threat to Pepe Reina for Liverpool.

It was clear from this stage of the contest that the confidence of Atletico was non-existent, as they simply could not conjure up a way of getting their strikers Sinama-Pongolle and Diego Forlan into the contest. It was the third match in a row that they had gone behind in the early stages, and it was clear they were hesitant in attack.

Maniche and Sinama-Pongolle tried desperately to get their side back in to the match, however nothing seemed to be going right for the Spanish side.

At around the 23 minute mark, Liverpool could so easily have doubled their advantage, following a glorious ball in to the area by Gerrard; however Keane’s poorly timed effort meant that it was an opportunity missed for the visitors. Liverpool were certainly looking the better side at this stage, as they so easily could have doubled their advantage after just 23 minutes.

Dossena kept his good form up for the English side with another menacing run on the left; however Keane once again failed to make contact with the cross, as it was cleared away by Antonio Lopez instead.

Liverpool continued their dominance in possession, as they looked to notch their third victory from three starts in the competition. Their opponents were immensely struggling in attack, and at this stage, it seemed as if the Reds were strolling towards another three points.

On 38 minutes, Riera was awarded the first booking of the match for a dive inside the area, which was a harsh decision, as there certainly was contact from Lopez, as the attacking player went in search of a penalty, after a fantastic build-up by his side.

The match continued to be played at a pedestrian place, with the home side failing to put any pressure whatsoever on their opponents.

An anonymous Diego Forlan unleashed a powerful drive from long range, and despite the fact that the shot was off target, the Atletico superstar showed just exactly what he was capable of doing if given the chance.

Arbeloa was the second Liverpool man to receive a booking, following a tough challenge on the dangerous Sinama-Pongolle, who managed to win a free kick for his side in an extremely dangerous position. Simao took the resulting kick, however his ball was poor, and easily taken by Reina.

In the closing stages of the half, it was Maniche who went down in his area, following a definite clip from Benayoun. The referee wanted nothing of it however, and as was the case with Riera just a few moments prior, a yellow card for diving was the result.

Despite a late flurry of attacks by the home side, the Reds held on to their one goal lead, and following a slow start to the match, the visitors took a well deserved lead into the interval.

Second Half

Sergio Aguero was brought on for Luis Garcia, who picked up a bad knock in the opening half, and the young Argentine made his presence felt immediately, as his team mates lifted right from the onset.

On 49 minutes however, Benayoun made it 2-0, but for the linesman’s flag that was raised for offside. Replays indicated that he was onside, and thus it was a poor decision from the linesman. It was the home side’s own doing, as Perea’s poor clearance went straight to Benayoun, and after a neat one-two with Gerrard, the former had Franco beaten in goal.

Forlan burst in to life in the second half, following a tremendous chipping ball from his attacking partner Sinama-Pongolle, however once again the linesman adjudged that the striker was in an offside position. And once again, replays indicated that this was not the case, meaning Forlan could have so easily equaled the score line in that instance.

Shortly after, Maniche finished off a lovely move that was set up by Aguero, however it once again was denied by the linesman’s flag. Unbelievably, it was the third incorrect decision in the half, as the Portuguese international was clearly onside.

Atletico continued to play with confidence, as just one minute later, Simao had an opportunity in an almost identical spot to Maniche. This time however, Reina was the men to deny Atletico, as his brilliant fingertip save, and then the post, was enough for the Liverpool keeper to save the day for his side once again.

The Reds’ skipper was replaced on the hour mark, with Ryan Babel taking his place, as Benitez looked to inject some pact into the Liverpool attack. And that is exactly what he did, as with his first touch on the ball, he sped past two defenders, whilst trying to play in Dirk Kuyt just outside the area.

The visitors continued to press, as they tried to overcome the early onslaught on home attacks, as Xabi Alonso’s dipping effort from distance, forced Franco into making a great save. Despite having conceded, the Atleti keeper had been in good touch after 70 minutes.

On 72 minutes, Simao won a free kick in a dangerous area to cross for his side, and his ball in was superb. All it lacked was a final touch, with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Seitaridis unmarked, but wrong-footed at the back post.

Atleti seemed to return to their pedestrian ways of the first half, towards the latter stages of the second, however they some how managed to break on an impressive counter attack, with Maniche eventually striking from long range, resulting in Reina making a decent, but a fairly comfortable save.

Just a few minutes later, a defensive collapse by Liverpool allowed Simao to equal the score line, making for an entertaining final five minutes. A defensive lapse by Carragher was swooped on by Forlan, and he played a ball across to an unmarked Simao, who did the rest.

The substitute Miguel had a first time volley saved by Reina just moments later, after a great ball in from Forlan, who certainly got better as the match wore on. Atleti continued to press, as the Reds looked stunned following the Simao goal.

With just two minutes remaining in the match, Liverpool went close to stealing another late victory, as Kuyt’s impressive run and glorious ball in, was met by the head of Babel at the near post, however the Dutchman just couldn’t get his header on target, and to the crowd’s pleasure, the scores remained level.

Despite all of their dominance, the Reds looked the more likely to concede at the death, as Atletico surged forward in numbers, as they went in search of an unlikely winner. It wasn’t to be however, as Rafa’s men held on, and it ended all square at the Vincent Calderon.

Both sides will remain top of Group D, on seven points, ahead of PSV and Marseille, who played in the other group fixture tonight.


Atletico Madrid (4-4-2):
Franco; Seitaridis, Perea, Dominguez, Lopez; Camacho, Maniche, Luis Garcia, Simao; Forlan, Sinama-Pongolle

Liverpool (4-5-1): Reina; Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Dossena; Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, Benayoun, Gerrard, Riera; Keane


14’ Keane (Liverpool)

83’ Simao (Atletico Madrid)

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