In Depth

Liverpool boss Klopp backs Adrian: ‘We will not blame him for a second’

Atletico progress to the quarter-finals after beating the holders at Anfield

Champions League last-16 second leg Liverpool 2 Atletico Madrid 3 (after extra-time; 2-4 on aggregate) 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted he was a “bad loser” as he sucked up the sight of his side being dumped out of the Uefa Champions League by Atletico Madrid. 

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Spain, holders Liverpool knew it was always going to be a tough assignment against the crafty and committed La Liga outfit and so it proved as they suffered a 3-2 loss at the end of 120 enthralling minutes.

“It’s so difficult to play a side like this,” Klopp said in the aftermath of the Anfield agony. “I don’t understand with the quality they have the football they play. They could play proper football but they stand deep and have counter-attacks. 

“We accept it, of course, but it doesn’t feel right tonight. I realise I am a really bad loser, especially when the boys put such an effort in against world-class players on the other side who defend with two rows of four.”

In the cold light of day, however, Klopp will realise that this defeat was a further sign that Liverpool have lost their edge in recent weeks. 

This was their fourth loss in six matches, a slump that has seen them exit the FA Cup and suffer a 3-0 hammering at the hands of lowly Watford. 

The momentum that took them on an unbeaten 44-match Premier League run has gone, and with it their dream of back-to-back Champions League titles.

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Adrian agony 

To blame Atletico for their game plan is indeed the sign of a bad loser. The world knew how they would approach the second leg, and, alas, the world wasn’t that surprised when the Spaniards were given a helping hand by another blunder from Adrian.

The Brazilian goalkeeper was at fault last week when his blunders made life easy for Chelsea in their FA Cup fifth-round tie, and last night his poor clearance fell into the path of Marcos Llorente. 

Liverpool were leading 2-0 at the time - thanks to goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino, the second four minutes into extra-time - but Llorente’s effort gave the visitors the priceless away goal.

Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian could not keep out Marcos Llorente’s first goal for Atletico

Javier Soriano/AFP via Getty Images

Blame game 

As the belief drained from the Reds, Atletico closed in for the kill, scoring again through Llorente and then Alvaro Morata, as Liverpool suffered their first defeat at Anfield in the Champions League since 2014. In other words it was the first time Klopp has lost in front of the Kop in the competition.

That perhaps accounts for his uncharacteristically snarky reaction to Atletico’s victory; or perhaps he was trying to deflect attention from Adrian, who has almost single-handedly led his side through the exit of two competitions in the space of seven days. 

“We will not blame him for a second,” Klopp told reporters. “What you do, I don’t know, but stay respectful, that would be really nice because he didn’t want to do that. 

“He saved us in so many moments when he played… he’s a man, a grown man, and he will deal with that. We will help him with that.”

PSG progress

In the evening’s other tie, Paris Saint-Germain beat Borussia Dortmund 2-0 to reach the last eight of the Champions League for the first time in four years. 

There were no fans to share in their delight with the match played behind closed doors as part of the French attempt to contain coronavirus, but that didn’t put PSG off their stride.

Trailing 2-1 from the first leg in Germany, Neymar headed PSG in front on 26 minutes and Juan Bernat added a second while Dortmund’s frustration was seen in the second-half dismissal of Emre Can.

Today’s back pages

Llor out! Adrian agony as Atletico stun Liverpool and football’s crisis plan is revealed

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