After The Match 


Liverpool-Atletico Madrid 1-1 (0-1)      4.11.08                    CL
Goals: Gerrard (95 pen)          Rodríguez (37)
Team: Reina, Arbeloa, Aurelio, Carragher, Agger, Mascherano, Alonso, Gerrard, Riera, Kuyt, Keane
Subs: Babel (Riera 61), Ngog (Keane 71), Lucas (Mascherano 77)
Not used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Benayoun, Degen
Yellow: Maniche (67), Pernia (90), Heitinga (90), Aguero (90)
Red: None
Referee: Martin Hansson (SWE)
Attendance: 42.010
Shots on target: 7-2
Shots off target: 11-2
Blocked shots: 4-2
Fouls conceded: 7-14
Corners: 11-2
Offsides: 2-0
Possession: 59.6-40.4
Yellow: 0-4
HEADLINES "We showed
a lot of character tonight..."

Steven Gerrard
0511: Ref 'not sure' of Reds decision
0511: Rafa hails nerveless Gerrard
0511: Our full backs are not up to standard
0511: Riera: Let's take maximum points
0511: Agger's injury causes problems for Liverpool 
0511: Liverppol FC missing cutting
          edge of Fernando Torres

0511: Pernia upset with Gerrard
0411: Gerrard: It was a penalty
0411: Gerrard spot-kick salvages Reds draw

Ref 'not sure' of Reds decision

By Laurent Picard - Setanta Sports

Fifa referee Martin Hansson has declared he is not sure that the controversial last-gasp penalty he awarded to Liverpool against Atletico Madrid should have been given.

Steven Gerrard bumped into Mariano Pernia during the Champions League clash at Anfield and Hansson generously pointed to the spot in injury time.

The Reds captain took responsibility and cancelled out Maxi Rodriguez’s opener in the 95th minute, while Atleti's players could not believe their eyes.

Hansson has commented on his decision, and confirmed he was not sure of himself when he whistled for penalty.

“I am not sure it was a penalty,” Hansson told Swedish TV station SVT.

“From my angle, I am not sure this was a penalty.

“I am not supposed to comment on concrete plays according to Uefa.”

For his part, Pernia revealed the linesman apologised for taking the decision.

“The linesman told me ‘sorry, sorry’. This fault did not exist, Gerrard jumped on me. It is crystal clear, I do not have anything to add.”

Rafa hails nerveless Gerrard

Football 365

Rafael Benitez believes Liverpool can rely on Steven Gerrard's nerves of steel to drag them to glory.

Once again Gerrard saved his side from defeat with a controversial late penalty securing a Champions League draw at home to an impressive Atletico Madrid.

Benitez no longer feels his captain's involvement at crucial times late in a match is a surprise, with Liverpool making a habit of staging dramatic comebacks this season.

They have scored vital goals 12 times in the last 15 minutes of matches and those goals - out of a total of 26 in 18 matches - have earnt six wins and a draw in the dying minutes.

Gerrard's late interventions have been responsible for victories against Middlesbrough and Portsmouth and Tuesday's draw with Madrid, and he also scored two goals in the first half in the opening Champions League group victory over Marseille.

Benitez said: "Steven has nerves of steel, he has great confidence in what he does on the pitch.

"We always know that in important games he is capable of scoring at the end. This time it was a penalty, as it was against Portsmouth.

"I always have confidence that he has the calmness to score under that sort of pressure.

"He does well in training with penalties against Pepe Reina and Diego Cavalieri so we all have confidence in him."

Gerrard has scored 14 of his 19 penalties for Liverpool and Benitez added: "We know that Steven will not give up, he'll keep going right to the end and it is no surprise when he scores such late goals now."

The debatable penalty, following a collision with Mariano Pernia, means Liverpool and Atletico both have eight points - with Marseille and PSV on three each - but both can qualify for the last 16 with home wins on November 26 against Marseille and PSV respectively.

Benitez insisted the penalty was correctly given, adding: "The referee missed a handball before the penalty, and it was given by the linesman who was very close.

"The point was crucial because we now only have to win one game to qualify.

"We had 22 shots, which is really good in a European match, but the figures do not mean anything really because you have to score.

"I felt we played much better at Tottenham at the weekend and lost, this time we faced a team who defended very deep and were well organised.

"We controlled everything, but not in the penalty area where it mattered.

"Agger had three great chances I would have expected him to score, especially as two of those chances were with his favoured left foot.

"But we are not taking our chances. I am saying this now after every game, but it is true. We must improve.

"Madrid are a very good team, they will progress in the tournament and I believe they can beat anyone once they get to the last 16.

"They are well organised and are very dangerous on the break where they have players with great quality.

"We were intent on qualifying now, Marseille winning against PSV made that possible, so we are disappointed that it could not be achieved."

Benitez expects to have Fernando Torres back for Saturday's home game with West Brom, the striker having missed six games with a hamstring injury.

He said: "It all depends on Fernando, he was not happy with his fitness so he did not play against Atletico.

"He said he was not confident, so you cannot take any risks with a hamstring injury.

"I will talk to him during the rest of the week to see how he is after each training session. I will also talk with the physio and the doctor for their view but how Fernando feels will be the key."

Our full backs are
not up to standard

Comment by Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo

Before last night’s game there was a real sense that Liverpool would come out wanting to kick the cat after losing to Spurs at the weekend.

But it never really happened for us against Atletico Madrid.

Of course, Steven Gerrard has gone and got us out of jail in the dying seconds and as we all know it’s not for the first time.

Okay, so the penalty was a tad controversial but while the Madrid players protested vigorously, Stevie kept his cool brilliantly and hammered it unerringly into the Kop end. So for me he deserves enormous credit yet again for staying focused when he could so easily have been distracted by the rumpus going on around him.

But there were a couple of things in particular which struck me about the side last night and which are niggling causes for concern, I feel.

Firstly, I remain worried that our full backs are not showing up to the standards we expect to see at Anfield.

First and foremost defenders have got to be able to defend. But for Madrid’s goal Fabio Aurelio found hmself caught upfield and he never recovered the ground as Madrid countered quickly.

In fact it was Albert Riera – a left winger – who tracked back to try and block the attack.

Aurelio and Andrea Dossena are clearly vying for the left back slot at Anfield yet it’s clear neither have convinced Rafa Benitez. And I can understand the reasons for that.

I’m afraid I still have doubts too about Alvaro Arbeloa. He’s tidy enough at times but when you think of some of the great right backs we’ve had at Anfield – the names of Chris Lawler and Phil Neal spring to mind – well, let’s just say he’s got a lot to live up to.

Those two were famous not just for being top defenders, but for adding an incredible number of goals too.

The other big concern is that without Torres, we look like we’re struggling to get goals.

Robbie Keane works his socks off but isn’t a target man and will be disappointed he isn’t getting on the score sheet more regularly.

Up front I wonder whether we do, Torres aside, have an out and out striking alternative of the quality we need.

That said, we kept battling away last night.

Madrid played with typical European nous, sitting deep and taking us on in their own half, which made space difficult to find and chances hard to come by.

Thankfully, when you’ve got the thrust of your captain at hand, there’s always hope.

Credit him and Liverpool for, once again, showing they never know they are beaten. But we can do much better.

Riera: Let's take maximum points

By Richard Buxton - Shanklygates

Albert Riera has called on his Liverpool team mates to build on last night's draw with Atletico Madrid by taking maximum points from their remaining two Champions League games.

The Spanish winger, reflecting on the game in which Liverpool trailed for over an hour until Steven Gerrard's injury time penalty, believes that the side is strong enough to beat Marseille and PSV Eindhoven - their remaining opponents in Group D.

"This was definitely a very important point for us," he said.

"We knew when we went into this game that a win could have been enough to take us through.

"That did not happen but a draw is still a good result and it means that we still have the same chances to go through, albeit with one match less to do it.

"But we will do everything we can to win our last two matches because we want to win the group.

"We had chances in the first half and we had tried to kill the match early on but it didn't happen for us. We didn't play really well but sometimes it is like this.

"If we had scored first I think it would have been different but they got the first goal and that meant they could get men behind the ball and make things difficult for us.

"But in the second half we had more chances and created more opportunities so even if we were a bit lucky in the end I think we deserved to get a draw."

Agger's injury causes
problems for Liverpool

By John Edwards - Daily Mail

Rafa Benitez has been rocked by a fresh injury worry as he attempts to steer Liverpool out of their mini-slump.

After starting the season with a 16-game unbeaten run, Liverpool finally came unstuck at Tottenham on Saturday and were seconds away from a second successive defeat, at Anfield last night, when Steven Gerrard salvaged a Champions' League point with an injury-time penalty against Atletico Madrid.

Fernando Torres was again missing with a hamstring injury and Daniel Agger could now join him on the sidelines after damaging a finger in the second half of last night's 1-1 draw.

The Denmark centre-back came off for lengthy treatment near the bench and will have a scan amid fears the finger is broken.

With Martin Skrtel still weeks away from fitness, it would leave Benitez with only two fit central defenders, in Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia, for Saturday's tea-time kick-off against West Brom at Anfield.

"It was painful, and no-one is too sure at the moment whether I have suffered a break," said Agger. "I hope to be fit for Saturday, but I will know more after the scan. It just about finished off a frustrating night for me, because I should have won the game for us.

"On a good day, I might have had three or even four goals, but almost is not good enough. It is one thing creating chances, but you have to finish them off.

"The first should have been a penalty after only two minutes, because I was fouled, but it's no good complaining now."

Liverppol FC missing cutting
edge of Fernando Torres

Comment by Nick Smith - Liverpool Daily Post

When the opposing supporters are sporting your name and number on their shirts and they’re as disappointed as their rival fans at your absence, you know you’ve made it.

And the fact that Fernando Torres failed to make last night's reunion with his former employers was as big a blow to expectation and anticipation as the failure of Diego Maradona to grace Anfield with his presence.

Torres is indeed a big miss. For both the travelling hordes who idolised him for so many years and those who have inherited that hero-worship.

The key difference is, Liverpool’s anguish over his absence goes way beyond last night.

The reason Liverpool were so keen to get qualification sewn up was so they could keep key players fresh for resuming their title challenge. In fact, the only reason there was so much at stake last night was because the lack of a clinical and ruthless finisher cost them victory in Madrid two weeks ago.

It also cost them their unbeaten league record at the weekend, when for most of the game they made Spurs look like the bottom-of-the-table side they are and inexplicably failed to cast them further adrift.

With Torres around, it’s safe to say that wouldn’t have happened -and they might not have had to rely on an injury-time penalty to rescue a point last night either.

When Torres limped out of Spain ’s game with Belgium last month, his club wasn’t just losing its star striker but a star striker bang in form.

His hot streak – that had yielded four goals from his last two Premier League – was frustratingly suspended in mid-air.

The fact that Liverpool ’s ambitions haven’t quite yet suffered a similar fate since is testament to the players Benitez has had at his disposal. They are still well placed in the league and should still sail through to the knockout stages if the evidence of earlier meetings with Marseille and PSV Eindhoven is anything to go by.

But this can’t go on for much longer, even if Liverpool ’s run of games over the next month looks more like a Christmas list than a fixture list.

Last night’s struggles to break Atletico down weren’t confined to having nobody in the six-yard area to tap into an open goal. It was the lack of someone with the ability to make something happen out of nothing when it’s all as flat as a dud firework.

The early stages of last night’s encounter were just that, with the Spanish visitors diligently sticking to their defensive duties, sitting back and waiting for the counter-attacks to present themselves.

It worked to perfection when right-back Antonio Lopez’s sublime control led to Maxi Rodriguez’s opening goal and in terms of the tactical pattern of the game that only made Liverpool’s task of breaking their opponents down even harder.

Robbie Keane, as he did in the first game, perhaps best summed up the cutting edge missing in the absence of Torres when he found himself clean through on goalkeeper Franco but, as he did a fortnight ago, opted for the over-elaborate when just a straightforward blast at goal would have done.

The chronic lack of invention was such that many in the Kop must have wished they were cheering Luis Garcia’s touchline warm-up in anticipation of him entering the fray in a red shirt rather than a blue one.

But it’s Torres’s return that is really longed for, which is little wonder given that Daniel Agger looked the most likely outlet for an equaliser for much of the second half.

His comeback is now more than a week overdue based on the original prognosis but it is worth remembering there have been times during his spell on the sidelines when the message from his team-mates has appeared to be: "Take your time, there’s no rush."

Dirk Kuyt filled the void admirably with his double strike Wigan , while the whole team did likewise with their compelling performance at Stamford Bridge .

But the Dutchman can’t be expected to sustain the kind of strike rate that Torres has delivered sicne bursting on to the English football scene and it's clear Benitez's squad can't sustain a successful campaign while he's spending game closer to his girlfriend than his fellow strikers.

Although one of the biggest problems now is that there aren't too many of them about. David Ngog is one for the future rather than the current unforgiving deep end of a vital Champions League game.

In the final analysis of it, defeat may have been avoided. But nobody can swerve the fact that the extra rehabilitation time that has denied Torres a reunion with his old pals had better start coming to fruition.

Because right now a reunion with his current teammates is far more important.

Pernia upset with Gerrard

By Alex Livie - Setanta Sports

Atletico Madrid defender Mariano Pernia has claimed he received an apology from an assistant referee after Liverpool had won a controversial late penalty on Tuesday.

Steven Gerrard tumbled under minimal contact from Pernia in injury-time, before dusting himself down and slotting home to earn The Reds a point.

Atletico were hugely disappointed to concede so late in proceedings and Pernia’s mood was not improved by the assistant seemingly admitting his mistake.

"It was a very ugly decision by the linesman, but we all make mistakes, us players too, and I think the linesman made one here," he said.

"In nobody's eyes was that a penalty. We're very hurt to have drawn the game in what was practically the final minute.

"It was a nonexistent foul, Gerrard threw himself on top of me. It couldn't have been more clear.

"The linesman said 'sorry, sorry' after the penalty was given. He had time to correct it and go back on it but he didn't."

Gerrard: It was a penalty

By Paul Eaton - LFC Official Website

Steven Gerrard reflected on Liverpool's last-gasp draw with Atletico Madrid at Anfield and insisted: "It was
a penalty."

The Reds remained on course for Champions League qualification after Gerrard picked himself up from being fouled in the area and slotted the spot kick high into the Kop net.

The final whistle was met with vociferous appeals from the Madrid players who felt the officials had got the decision wrong - but Gerrard insists there should be no controversy around the call.

"I'll have to have another look at it, but in my mind it was a penalty," he said. "I got there first and he came into the back of me. If it had happened anywhere else on the pitch it would be a free kick, so it was a penalty.

"I can understand their disappointment because of the timing of it. If it had happened at the other end we would have been livid. But that's football and we have to move on.

"It was a big result for us tonight and a big point. Good teams usually don't lose two games in a row and so it was important we got something.

"The first half wasn't good enough and we know that. We upped it in the second half, played at a higher tempo and pressed harder. We're still in a strong position in the group now.

"We showed a lot of character tonight and we have to take that into the next league game."

Gerrard spot-kick
salvages Reds draw

By Tom Adams - Setanta Sports

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard took advantage of the softest of penalty awards to score five minutes into injury time and hold Atletico Madrid to a 1-1 draw at Anfield, leaving the race to finish top of Champions League Group D wide open.

The Reds –again deprived of former Atletico hero and star striker Fernando Torres due to a hamstring injury – had fallen behind to a lovely touch-and-finish from Maxi Rodriguez in the first half and looked destined to a second consecutive defeat after wasting a host of chances.

But, deep into injury time, Gerrard made another dramatic late intervention on a European night at Anfield as he somehow won a penalty after jumping into Mariano Pernia, sparking a justifiably furious reaction from the visiting side who were on course for the last 16 with Marseille beating PSV Eindhoven.

Gerrard stepped up with trademark coolness and beat Leo Franco emphatically from 12 yards to leave both clubs level on eight points from four games, five points ahead of both Marseille and PSV in Group D.

The disappointing news prior to kick-off was that the game had been deprived of its two most electric performers, with Torres failing to make the squad against his former side due to injury and Sergio Aguero, as he was at the Vicente Calderon, dropped to the bench by Javier Aguirre.

It felt like turning up to a Barack Obama rally only to see Gordon Brown take the stage, and the underwhelming sentiment was only deepened by Aguirre’s decision to sideline former Reds Luis Garcia and Florent Sinama-Pongolle – both of whom played prominent roles in Liverpool’s Champions League victory of 2005.

A low key start duly ensued – aside from an early Gerrard corner when Dan Agger felt he was fouled by Maxi when failing to connect properly to a close-range shot – and it required a glorious piece of invention from Xabi Alonso to create the first decent chance of the game after 15 minutes.

The Spaniard sought out Robbie Keane with a wonderful 50-yard pass and after the Republic of Ireland matched the ball with an expert piece of chest control to elude Johnny Heitinga, he rifled a shot narrowly wide of Leo Franco’s left-hand post.

Atletico should have opened the scoring on 19 minutes when Simao Sabrosa – scorer of the late goal in Madrid – somehow fired over the bar from close range after a cross from Mariano Pernia, but Liverpool begun to exert a greater control of the game despite the visitors’ wonderful use of the ball.

Alonso continued to be Benitez’s chief architect and another soaring pass found Albert Riera at the back post. The second Spaniard was unable to match the quality of the first though and his tricky volley flew high into the Anfield stand.

The tide felt like it was turning decisively in Liverpool’s favour when only an excellent clearance from Luis Perea prevented Steven Gerrard from getting a shot away and Keane almost rounded Leo Franco before the keeper got a touch on the ball, but just eight minutes before half-time they fell 1-0 down to a brilliant goal.

Antonio Lopez killed a long pass from Heitinga with a superb touch on the right and then played the ball inside to Maxi. The Argentina international’s first touch was a lovely dink to take him clear of Jamie Carragher and his second was a ruthless finish that sped past Jose Reina and into the far corner of the net.

The second half opened with a huge appeal from Liverpool for a penalty but referee Martin Hansson was unsighted as the ball struck the arm of Perea and Atletico were very fortunate to see him wave play-on.

Liverpool, no doubt stung by the sense of injustice, pushed on and Agger almost drew his side level on 57 minutes when beating Leo Franco to an in-swinging Fabio Aurelio free-kick from the right. Unfortunately for the Dane his header flew just inches over the bar.

Agger was in the thick of things again on 64 minutes when the ball fell kindly to him after a Dirk Kuyt header back across the face of goal, but his acrobatic volley was too close to Leo Franco and Atleti survived once more.

Still the chances came and went for Liverpool as even Gerrard – so often the hero on European nights at Anfield – found his finishing wanting after a glorious one-two with Keane that started with the skipper finding his team-mate with a lovely backheel.

Aguero was summoned off the bench after 71 minutes but the Argentina star failed to effect a change in the course of the game and Liverpool still poured forward. Agger, yet again, found himself a central figure and the defender was guilty of a horrendous miss on 83 minutes when he headed wide.

When even Jamie Carragher joined the fray with a shot from 20 yards that Leo Franco tipped over the bar, and with Keane substituted, it was clear that Liverpool were crying out for the cutting edge of Torres.

But the man who spent 12 years at Atletico was not need as Gerrard, as he so often does, rose to the fore deep into injury time, winning a distinctly dodgy penalty from referee Hansson.

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