“I realise I am a really bad loser,” Jurgen_Klopp” class=”body-link” data-vars-item-name=”BL-9396771-/topic/Jurgen_Klopp” data-vars-event-id=”c6″>Jurgen Klopp conceded, before bolding the point by adding “especially when the boys put such an effort in against world-class players on the other side who defend with two rows of four.”
Diego Simeone, so often cast as the king of crazed, was measured in his response: “I respect the manager’s identity and the quality footballers they have. We try to exploit deficiencies in the opponent. That’s what we do. And we try to win, with all our soul.”
In the aftermath of Liverpool’s Champions League elimination courtesy of a dogged Atletico Madrid, the contrasting styles of the sides were spotlighted and the debate over a proactive approach versus defensive diligence was sharpened.
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Essentially, after a game that defied convention, such discussions surrender to a bigger point. “Football is a game of mistake management,” Klopp’s assistant Peter Krawietz once told this writer. “You can’t avoid making mistakes, but you can be better prepared in how to minimise them and deal with them.”
In a tie that Liverpool ceded 4-2, they erred most. There was a complete malfunction across all departments during the first leg at the Wanda Metropolitano.
At Anfield on Wednesday night, however, they were excellent in regulation time. “Liverpool put us under so much pressure,” full-back Kieran Tripper admitted. “You can’t come with the plan to defend for 90 minutes – even though that’s what we had to end up doing.”
Simeone described the champions of Europe as “extraordinary” and “the best opponent we have faced,” crediting Jan Oblak for being the Lionel Messi of goalkeepers for his nine interventions and “saving our lives.”
Liverpool had 240 passes in the attacking third to Atleti’s 46, created 27 chances to their seven, produced 34 shots to 10 and yet lost 3-2 on the night in extra time.
They did what they needed to do, before doing precisely the opposite: offering the visitors the gift of getting back into the game with a goalkeeping gaffe from Adrian.
“I think everybody who saw the game tonight knows that it could have been different,” Klopp said.
“I loved our first 90 or 95 minutes, however long it was. Our first, main mistake tonight was that we scored the second goal too late; we scored in extra-time and not in the 90 minutes, so that was our fault.
“When you see a team like Atletico packed with world-class players in their positions and they play the way they play, it is the most difficult thing to do, to face, that’s how it is.
“We did exceptionally well, we played exactly in the spaces we have to play. I loved the football we played, I loved how we played in the half-spaces, I loved how we used our triangles, squares on the left and right side, how we passed the ball, how we came to finishes.
“We wanted to have first-touch crosses and we had [them], it’s how we scored the first goal – a super goal. We caused them more problems than probably people thought after the first game; against a defensive set-up like that, to cause a team that many problems is really exceptional, so I loved that.
“But we scored the second goal, all good and then everybody saw their first goal.
“Come on, if you lose – and we lost – you do it always for some reason and they’re always different. That pass was not really helpful. Adrian is a super player, I love the boy, but it is in this moment the wrong decision, or he didn’t hit the ball right. I don’t know.
“Is it then necessary they score the goal? No, but when they finished the situation off Adrian is still on the way back and not in the right positioning, so it was a bit easy to finish that situation off, I would say.
“In that moment, usually conceding a goal is part of football and should not have a massive influence, but in this moment the momentum changed. Before that, Madrid thought, ‘Wow, how should we cope with that?’ In that moment, everything that was natural before that – how we played, how we were positioned, what we did – it was not easy, but it felt natural and right.
“But it changed and was now different and they were now, ‘Ah, OK, could be our game tonight’, so we became a bit stiff and they became a little bit fresher legs or whatever.
“In the end, they scored two more goals and we didn’t, so we lost both games – congratulations to Atletico, they are through.
“I said it now already to pretty much all TV stations, I am really an under-average loser, to be honest. If I would say all the things I have in my mind I would look like the worst loser in the world, so I best stop here.”
Atleti are masters of “exploiting the defects of our rivals” and once Adrian’s botched kick allowed Joao Felix to feed Marcos Llorente for their first of the night, Simeone’s men aimed to pierce his unconvincing state at every opportunity.
They had the advantage on away goals before the Spaniard scored again after being encouraged to shoot as Liverpool backed off him, with his effort dipping under the keeper’s dive.
Alvaro Morata beat Alisson’s deputy at the near post in the final act of rendering the flaws of the hosts fatal.
Liverpool succumbed in the mistake management stakes.
“For two-and-a-half years we had an exceptional ride, we had party after party after party in the Champions League pretty much,” Klopp reminded. Again, it was a party, everything was set, it was great – crowd exceptional, the stadium, everything showed up in the best way.
“The boys delivered a super game, fought hard, played well and scored wonderful goals. But we lost.
“We were lucky in moments in the Champions League, when we went through for some reason. Usually we really deserved it but there were lucky moments as well. Now we are out. Atletico won both games, they are deservedly in the next round.
“So from now on we will watch the Champions League instead of being part of it. But everybody knows we will come again and go again.”
There is no question Liverpool get back up off the canvas, just like there can be no examination of either team’s approach in an encounter that cared little for it and can be filed under the simple, but effective ‘that’s football’ banner.