Liverpool's hopes of silverware ended by Atlético Madrid's Diego Forlán

UEFA Europa League Semi Final 2nd Leg

Liverpool 2
  • Aquilani 44,
  • Benayoun 95
Atlético Madrid 1
  • Forlan 102
Diego Forlan celebrates scoring against Liverpool

Diego Forlán celebrates scoring against Liverpool in extra-time. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

Diego Forlán inflicted greater hurt on Liverpool than he ever did in a Manchester United jersey. Rafel Benítez's side were 2-1 ahead on aggregate but, 12 minutes into extra-time, the Atlético Madrid striker turned home a wonderful left-footed cross from José Antonio Reyes to win the Europa League tie on the away goals rule. It is the La Liga side that will contest the final with Fulham on 12 May in Hamburg.

That is as it should be. For all the angst the losers will experience, they have been eliminated by opponents who had superior technique throughout the ranks. Atlético had also illustrated that when winning the first leg with a Forlán goal. If there is benefit for Liverpool it will lie in having any remaining illusions removed. Accomplished as Yossi Benayoun was, the line-up is of uneven quality.

This taxing occasion that stretched them over two hours will have been pleasing to behold for Chelsea, who are here on Sunday for a critical match in their quest for the Premier League title. As if bodies were not aching enough, there is hurt for Liverpool to overcome in this drab end to their ambitions for silverware in this campaign.

• Benítez says Liverpool still need five new players
• Read Barry Glendenning's minute-by-minute report
• Fulham fight back to secure final spot against Atlético
• Full coverage of this season's Europa League

The passion on the night did come close to disguising the limitations. A second goal had arrived in the fifth minute of extra-time when Benayoun collected a fine pass from Lucas Leiva to finish confidently. That moment was an illusion in its suggestion that Liverpool had risen above the difficulties and their own limitations. Atlético, too, showed limitations while taking so long to execute the decisive goal.

All the same, the tie was pulled level on aggregate a minute before half-time. The absurd ease of the build-up indicated that Atlético had temporarily become harassed. It took no more than a Javier Mascherano throw-in to send Benayoun turning past the defence on the right for a cutback converted delightfully by Alberto Aquilani.

It was to be expected that patience would be essential. These, after all, are interlocking clubs who even chose to engage in a friendly on this ground in August. It is hard to separate these clubs. The matches in last season's Champions League group phase both ended in 1-1 draws and now they share a mood of anti-climax over their featureless domestic campaigns.

There are certain differences, all the same. Atlético's disappointment had been even more marked since they stand 10th in La Liga, although they have now transcended that mediocrity. In the first leg at the Vicente Calderón, Quique Sánchez Flores's side struggled for conviction even after Forlán had struck.

A 1-0 defeat, all the same, is still a poor result in an away leg. Atlético could also feel encouraged that the Argentinian forward Sergio Agüero had completed his suspension in Madrid. Benítez had to be fearful of the striker. The presence of Agüero was enough to make him demote the solid Sotirios Kyrgiakos to the bench and put Daniel Agger at centre-back in the hope that the Dane's greater mobility would be telling.

The defence had to be rejigged in other ways, too. Mascherano filled the right-back post as Glen Johnson was relocated to the left. With a deficit to be addressed, defending could be only a secondary issue and as the first-half developed Atlético were pinned down. Agüero must have been exasperated then. When he did slip into space with the aid of a good Raúl García pass, his final ball drifted away harmlessly.

Benítez's line-up was not ideal but an important ingredient was present. Since Fernando Torres has been lost to knee trouble for the remainder of the season it was key that Dirk Kuyt had overcome a calf strain to fill the role of centre-forward.

If the tie was in the balance at half-time, the visitors re-emerged to try to tip it back in their favour. Liverpool, with the crowd behind them, seemed, for their part, to have a confidence that matters would flow in their favour. The faith was not to be justified.

The tie was so poised that restraint came naturally. There had been a thoughtfulness to the occasion, despite yellow cards, and a trace of patience was present. Steven Gerrard, for instance, was in a deeper-lying role, with Benítez putting the emphasis on his captain's experience as much as his individualism.

Even so, the calibre of Atlético's technique was never in dispute. The visiting supporters saw enough encouragement for their voices, briefly, to rise above those of the Anfield regulars and their side certainly had the last word.


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  • provenmac provenmac

    29 Apr 2010, 11:12PM

    As a Manchester United fan I'm absolutely devastated by this. The match going to extra time and Liverpool managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory is absolutely the worst thing that could happen.

    No way they'll beat Chelsea now.

  • aceal aceal

    29 Apr 2010, 11:13PM

    Liverpool ran out of legs. It's unlikely Torres would have made much difference tonight although they might have had two by half time and therefore in a better position earlier on to have killed the game off.

    In truth though Athletico always looked dangerous enough to score an away goal and yet again shoddy defending across the back four proved costly. That and an inability to open up the opposition has been the story of Liverpool's season.

  • righthandpulltrigger righthandpulltrigger

    29 Apr 2010, 11:15PM

    Glenn Johnson, oh dear.

    On a more homo-erotic note, Diego Forlan is disturbingly HENCH.

    In a way this might be good for Liverpool. Had they won a european trophy Benitez may have carried on playing the same way. This could be the kick up the arse required.

    I doubt it will be though.

  • Komnenos Komnenos

    29 Apr 2010, 11:16PM

    This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.
  • Clipse Clipse

    29 Apr 2010, 11:17PM

    I can only hope that Liverpool can rally themselves and thump Chelsea on Sunday.

    Your just a Man U fan. It would have been irritating to hear Liverpool fans bang on about winning the UEFA cup after the sh*t season they've had.

  • SandyLanePoolBoy SandyLanePoolBoy

    29 Apr 2010, 11:18PM

    Agreed Liverpool will have nothing left in the tank come Sunday. I think even without this body blow and with Torres they would have struggled to get a point.

    Still look on the bright side at least the Pool at the equal 19th best team in Europe.

  • loureed loureed

    29 Apr 2010, 11:19PM

    Benitez mada appaling substitutions. El Zhar is a ridiculous player and taking off your best player Mascharano instead of Lucas was surreal. Recent statements from him suggest he's holding off for his big pay off..Can see him fielding the likes of Degen against Chelsea.

  • tropicalia tropicalia

    29 Apr 2010, 11:20PM

    Yeah tonight was the night I feel that Chelsea won the league (bet them at 10/11 to beat Liverpool, that's a great price) so all in all a good night for West London.

    Good luck Fulham in the final. Roy Hodgson Manager of the Year.

  • Atomiclock Atomiclock

    29 Apr 2010, 11:20PM

    Sorry, but this 'text' is almost impossible to read. Perhaps McCarra phones in his reports but still, certain basic journalistic standards have - again - not been met by the Guardians Chief Football Writer.

  • mike65ie mike65ie

    29 Apr 2010, 11:21PM

    PintofHydesMild

    29 Apr 2010, 11:07PM

    I can only hope that Liverpool can rally themselves and thump Chelsea on Sunday.

    Can't see it, a whole lotta tired limbs and slightly sore heads out there by the end.
    The first leg result always meant the margins favoured the away side tonight. A valiant effort from many esp Kuyt, Masch and Aquilani who were tireless but Forlan or Aquero were always going to get a chance or two. The season ended tonight in almost all repects, Torres who was walking about with no apparent pain/discomfort before the game won't kick another ball this season and Chelsea won't have to struggle too hard on Sunday.

  • plectrum plectrum

    29 Apr 2010, 11:21PM

    Well done Fulham... oops, wrong blog.
    btw - do any Pool fans get the impression that Benitez is just bit too clever for his own good. His substitutions seemed to be about Saturday's game and qualifying for the CL (which won't happen), instead of leaving Aquilani and Mascherano on and trying to win tonight's game. Just a thought...

  • bobeto bobeto

    29 Apr 2010, 11:25PM

    It says something when Atletico have better subs than you.

    On another note, who's pass was better - Lucas for Benayoun or Reyes for Forlan? I'm siding with Reyes for now, but it might change again...

  • provenmac provenmac

    29 Apr 2010, 11:25PM

    Was anyone else shocked by the naivety of Atletico today? Three times in the last 2 minutes they had a chance to take the ball into the corner and run down the clock, and every time they ended up heading towards the goal and losing the ball. Incredibly cavalier.

    Poor Johnson, marooned out on the left by Rafa, and then out-jumped and out-muscled by REYES of all people.

  • matthirty5 matthirty5

    29 Apr 2010, 11:27PM

    Diego woooooooooooh oooohhhh Diego woooooooooooh oooohhhh he comes from Uruguay, he makes the scousers cry.

    There are some things like riding a bike you just don't forgot.

  • Alarming Alarming

    29 Apr 2010, 11:29PM

    plectrum not a very intelligent thought but full marks for trying.

    Actually not a bad Liverpool performance but with no 4th place possible I really can't see them hanging on to Torres.

  • spoonspoiler spoonspoiler

    29 Apr 2010, 11:34PM

    Well my oh my.

    You have to say that if Torres and Forlan ever had an on pitch snog in the future (ala Scholes and Neville) you could sort of squint and be excused for a bit of a tickle in the balls.

    I really need new cushions they just don't go with the curtains.

    Oh my

  • theheadhoncho113 theheadhoncho113

    29 Apr 2010, 11:39PM

    plectrum
    btw - do any Pool fans get the impression that Benitez is just bit too clever for his own good. His substitutions seemed to be about Saturday's game and qualifying for the CL (which won't happen), instead of leaving Aquilani and Mascherano on and trying to win tonight's game. Just a thought...

    Yeah, either that or he's thicker than bottled pigshit.

    Rafa must stay!

  • sicilianshamrock sicilianshamrock

    29 Apr 2010, 11:44PM

    Eh, why don't Liverpool have any ballboys? The other night Inter tried to waste every second, while the Barcelona ballboys got the ball back on the pitch instantly because they were chasing the game obviously. Liverpool didn't have this help and it slowed their momentum at times. Ridiculous to see Liverpool players jogging ten or fifteen metres to retrieve a ball that had gone out when they were losing.

    Reina even ended up taking a throw in near the end because no ball boy was there to give it to Glen Johnson.

    I dunno, seems like an oversight and an annoyance for the Liverpool players really.

    There isn't much room around the sidelines at Anfield, but there's stewards wedged in between the front row and the hoardings so why not ballboys who can help keep Liverpool playing at pace?

    Is this an issue or not? It pissed me off anyway.

  • Mediamogul Mediamogul

    29 Apr 2010, 11:45PM

    Am I the only person who thinks it's ludicrous that extra time goals count double? I'm not a Liverpool fan but its not like they played 120 minutes there. Surely it should be equal when the 90 mins are up.

    Just seems a little unfair

  • aceal aceal

    29 Apr 2010, 11:45PM

    Tottenham and City win before Liverpool play it'll be all over for this season for Liverpool. As for the title race who cares? If Chelski can't beat Liverpool after tonight they'll deserve to have it snatched from them on the final day. If United can't win at Sunderland should Chelski slip up on sunday they won't deserve the chance to win it on the last day. Somehow I have a feeling that Chelski's 90+ plus goals and more creative attack will prove decisive.

  • MBC1955 MBC1955

    29 Apr 2010, 11:52PM

    No, mediamogul, it's AWAY goals that count double in the event of a draw. Has been for decades now. It helps avoid the penalty lottery.

    If extra time goals counted double, so would Liverpool's second, so what are you complaining about?

  • MBC1955 MBC1955

    29 Apr 2010, 11:54PM

    Mediamogul (11.52). in that case, why bother with the game? Let's have a penalty shoot out in a neutral country instead, make it really fair.

    The whiff of sour grapes is overwhelming...

  • Monctonian Monctonian

    29 Apr 2010, 11:56PM

    Am I the only person who thinks it's ludicrous that extra time goals count double? I'm not a Liverpool fan but its not like they played 120 minutes there. Surely it should be equal when the 90 mins are up.

    And how would you negate the Home Advantage in extra time?

  • MBC1955 MBC1955

    30 Apr 2010, 12:03AM

    Ok, suggest a way of making extra time more even. Because if you start to think about it, I think you'll find that the only way to do so in a two legged tie is to not play it. But then how do you eliminate the advantage of playing at home in the second leg? How do we make that more even?

    Apologies for assuming you're a Liverpool fan but when you start challenging the settled and previously uncontroversial issue of extra time immediately after Liverpool go out, it's an easy leap to make.

  • Mediamogul Mediamogul

    30 Apr 2010, 12:03AM

    This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.
  • Mediamogul Mediamogul

    30 Apr 2010, 12:06AM

    This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.
  • MBC1955 MBC1955

    30 Apr 2010, 12:07AM

    Tell you what, go back and read exactly what you wrote, then come back and claim it isn't a hasty garble. Once you start slinging insults based on what team someone supports, you're admitting you've lost the argument.

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