Early Saul’s goal gives Atletico the edge against Liverpool in Champions League


A fourth-minute goal from Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez gave Atletico Madrid a 1-0 lead in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie at home on Tuesday to reigning European champions, Liverpool.

Atletico had to defend for the majority of the game but kept their discipline and shape and a clean sheet gives them a good chance of qualifying for the last 16 in the return leg at Anfield in three weeks.

Liverpool was slow out of the blocks and in the opening moments, Atletico was able to pin them in their own half and got an early reward when Saul swept home from close range after Alvaro Morata outjumped everyone following a corner.

After a poor opening 10 minutes, Liverpool began to take control of the ball, but all they were able to produce for all their passes were a couple of dangerous crosses from Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, while Atletico had two good chances on the break, one of which was flicked away by Robertson and the other which was well saved by Alisson Becker after Morata turned well in the Liverpool area.

Liverpool’s best first-half chance came when Mohamed Salah’s effort was deflected over by Felipe, while an Alexander-Arnold cross flashed across the Atletico goal evading everyone.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone made a defensive change at halftime, replacing Thomas Lemar with Marcos Llorente, while Divorok Origi came on for Sadio Mane, who had been booked in the first half and slightly lucky to avoid a second yellow.

Liverpool pinned Atletico in their own half and Salah headed wide when he should have hit the target seven minutes into the second half in a rare loss of concentration from the Atletico defense.

Morata slipped when well placed in a rare Atletico excursion from their own half, while Jordan Henderson fired just wide at the other end a couple of minutes before he went off injured to be replaced by James Milner.

The game opened up in the closing minutes, but Atletico’s defense kept its shape and the fact is their keeper Jan Oblak didn’t have to make a save all night. Enditem

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