After The Match 


A. Madrid-Liverpool 1-0 (1-0)            22.4.10                      EL
Goals: Forlan (9)
Team: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Agger, Kuyt, Lucas, Mascherano, Benayoun, Gerrard, Ngog
Subs: Babel (Ngog 64), El Zahr (Benayoun 83),
Not used: Cavalieri, Aquilani, Degen, Ayala, Pacheco
Yellow: Kyrgiakos (83)           Valero (84)
Red: None
Referee: Laurent Duhamel (FRA)
Attendance: 50,000
Shots on target: 4-0
Shots off target: 4-3
Blocked shots: 4-0
Fouls conceded: 10-11
Corners: 4-0
Offsides: 1-4
Possession: 50.3-49.7
Yellow: 1-1
HEADLINES "We can't be happy but it could have been worse."
Pepe Reina
2304: Forlan plays down favourites tag
2304: Carra: We might need three
2304: Reina happy to escape only one goal down
2304: Stevie ready for 'big, big night'
2304: Benitez confident of making final
2204: Forlan thwarts Reds in Spain

Forlan plays down favourites tag


Diego Forlan refuses to concede that Atletico Madrid's first-leg victory over Liverpool makes them favourites to reach the Europa League final.

Forlan struck the only goal of Thursday night's semi-final opener at the Estadio Vicente Calderon to put Atletico in the box seat ahead of next week's return leg at Anfield.

Atletico have been in decent form away from home in the competition so far, beating Turkish giants Galatasaray 2-1 in Istanbul and then holding both Sporting Lisbon and Valencia to 2-2 draws to secure away-goals victories.

However, Liverpool have bounced back from first-leg deficits in both of their previous rounds against Lille and Benfica and Forlan acknowledges it will not be easy for his side at Anfield.

The Uruguayan said: "I don't think we are favourites, we did a good job here, we won the game and they didn't score, but they are a strong team with good players and we know it's going to be a difficult game.

"We've played there before in the Champions League and in a friendly game, so we know how it's going to be. It's going to be a tough game. We know they are very strong there. We will have to play intelligently.

"But the team is prepared and we have to focus on events on the pitch and not on what's off it."

Forlan gave Atletico the ideal start when he put the Spanish side ahead after just eight minutes.

The Rojiblancos were unable to build on that though, despite creating the better of the opportunities in the remainder of the game.

Forlan missed one of the best openings after being left one on one with Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina, who also did well to deny Simao and Tomas Ujfalusi during the second half.

"The team played well. We had some chances to score more, but they didn't score against us and that's important at this stage of the competition," Forlan added.

"There are still 90 very difficult minutes left to get through to the final."

Atletico winger Jose Antonio Reyes, the former Arsenal player, added: "It's a slight advantage to take into the second leg, but nothing is decided yet.

"We have to visit a difficult ground, where we need to try and score a goal as soon as possible to make things more comfortable for us in the tie.

"We are happy with the work we've done and we know that we have to go to Liverpool with this same mentality."

Carra: We might need three

By Paul Hassall - LFC Official Website

Jamie Carragher believes Liverpool's Hamburg dream remains very much alive but has warned of the threat Atletico Madrid will pose at Anfield.

The defensive stalwart accepts the Reds will face a difficult task when they bid to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit when they reconvene in L4 next Thursday.

However, our favourite number 23 is adamant Rafael Benitez's men can still do it and is hopeful the 12th man will once again play a role in roaring them to the final.

"It's going to be a tough at Anfield now and the way they play on the counterattack, the demands will suit them," said Carragher. "If they score, that will leave us needing three.

"We know what they will be trying to do. It is up to us to stop them doing that. Hopefully the atmosphere will play a big part and it will be enough.

"We have got to be disappointed with conceding so early but, in some ways, we can be satisfied that we kept it at the same score; it's certainly not the worst result.

"Atletico had three or four world class players in their attack; you worry how a game might go sometimes when the opposition gets an early goal but we were ok in the end."

Anyone searching for reason for cheer need only look towards the fact Liverpool recovered from first-leg defeats in both Lille and Benfica to progress in their previous two rounds.

That was thanks in no small part to the finishing ability of Fernando Torres and Carra accepts it will be a tougher proposition without the hitman.

He added "You can't rely on one player and Fernando isn't here now," said Carragher. "To a certain extent, we have to forget about him. He'll be preparing for next season now and we have got to be positive we can do it without him."

Reina happy to escape
only one goal down

ITV Football

Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina insisted "it could have been worse" despite his side's 1-0 defeat at Atletico Madrid in their Europa League semi-final first leg.

Diego Forlan scored a scrappy early goal at the second attempt after defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos slipped, and the Reds were unable to muster a leveller.

Captain Steven Gerrard's drive into the side netting was the closest they came, though Yossi Benayoun had a goal disallowed following a marginal offside flag.

But Reina told Five: "The team didn't play well at all but it is still possible - there are 90 minutes to play at Anfield.

"We knew they were going to push - in the Calderon, they are a strong team. But after 20 minutes we settled down a little bit better and they didn't create too many things.

"We can't be happy but it could have been worse."

Reina made good saves from Simao Sabrosa and Tomas Ujfalusi, while Forlan wasted a good one-on-one opportunity.

The Spaniard said: "We were a little unlucky (with the goal) because Soto slipped.

"(The saves were) important to keep the tie alive - there is still a long 90 minutes to go at Anfield.

"We are behind now and it is very difficult but if there is one team who can do it with their fans behind them, it is Liverpool."

Stevie ready for 'big, big night'

By Jimmy Rice in Madrid - LFC Official Website

Steven Gerrard believes Atletico Madrid will fear coming to Anfield next week regardless of their one-goal lead.

Diego Forlan struck the only goal of the Europa League semi-final opener on eight minutes to make it advantage Atletico going into the Merseyside return next Thursday.

Gerrard accepts he and his teammates will have to up their game - but he is confident they can still reach the final in Hamburg.

The skipper told "We're disappointed with the result. The idea was to come here and try to get an away goal, to try and pinch a win. After this result you'd probably say Atletico are slight favourites

"But we'll have the Anfield crowd behind us next week, so Atletico will be a man down and if we get the first goal then the place will erupt. We'll see if we can get out of the blocks a bit quicker.

"It's not the ideal result but it's not the worst. We feel we can turn it around - we've done it before."

Gerrard added: "We had a couple of half chances but they got out the blocks better and got a goal at a good time. We reacted okay and got back into the game. We weren't at our best.

"This was a game of very few chances but I think it'll be more exciting next week with the supporters behind us. If we get the first goal it could be a big, big night."

Benitez confident of making final


Rafa Benitez is confident Liverpool can win their Europa League semi-final tie at Anfield after a narrow first-leg defeat at Atletico Madrid.

Liverpool slipped to a 1-0 loss at the Vicente Calderon on Thursday night after Diego Forlan netted the only goal of a tight game in the eighth minute.

Atletico had opportunities to build a bigger lead, with Jose Reina denying Simao Sabrosa and Tomas Ujfalusi in the second period and Forlan spurning a good chance when one-on-one with the Spain international.

At the other end, Liverpool found decent goalscoring chances hard to come by, with captain Steven Gerrard firing one of their best openings into the side-netting prior to the break.

The Reds did, however, have a goal disallowed early on for offside against Yossi Benayoun - a strike Benitez felt should have stood.

The defeat leaves Liverpool with a hill to climb in next week's second leg at Anfield, but Benitez was in optimistic mood after the game.

"I have a lot of confidence of playing at Anfield, in our players and in our fans. Today we had a lot of fans behind the team and that was very positive, and at Anfield we will have more of them," said Benitez.

"It could have been better, it could have been worse and everything will be decided at Anfield where we will go out to fight and have all our supporters behind us."

Benitez also played down the effect of tiredness after his side were forced to make a long journey to Spain by road and rail after the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud left flights grounded earlier in the week.

"It was fine," he said. "We were working hard so that was the main thing."

Liverpool are no strangers to needing European comebacks.

In the quarter-finals they trailed 2-1 after the first leg against Benfica before claiming a 5-3 aggregate victory, while in the last 16 they also lost the first meeting 1-0 against Lille before going through 3-1.

"We've been in the same situation before and we've found out we can win, so hopefully it will be the same again," added Benitez.

"I also think in the past we've been losing 1-0 in games down the years and we were in that final, so that's quite positive.

"We know that it will be difficult because 1-0 is always a dangerous score, but we are still confident.

"We've done it in the past and we have to approach the game with this confidence and it would then be easier for us to play better and to score more goals."

Liverpool were again missing Fernando Torres after he underwent season-ending knee surgery at the weekend.

As such, the five-time European champions looked short of a cutting edge up front, but having scored three against West Ham on Monday without the Spain ace, Benitez is confident they will still pose a serious goal threat against Atletico next week.

"I think we proved the other day that we can score goals. It doesn't matter which player, but we have players who can score. Of course we have to push and attack and I'm sure someone will score," he said.

Forlan thwarts Reds in Spain

By Elliot Ball - Sky Sports

Diego Forlan came back to haunt Liverpool to give Atletico Madrid a 1-0 advantage in their Europa League semi-final.

The former Manchester United striker gave the Primera Liga side a narrow edge going into the return leg at Anfield next Thursday after capitalising on some hopeless defending in the ninth minute.

Jose Manuel Jurado's ball into the box was met by Forlan, who was offered two bites at the cherry to give the Spanish outfit the perfect start on home soil.

Liverpool recovered and saw Yossi Benayoun disallowed what appeared a legitimate goal after being flagged offside midway through the first-half but in a match that failed to inspire, Rafa Benitez's side require a typical effort on Merseyside to reach the Hamburg showpiece on 12th May.

The Reds missed their injured striker Fernando Torres almost as much as the former darling of the Vicente Calderon missed the chance to face his old club, having also been denied that opportunity in the UEFA Champions League last season because of more fitness problems.

Closer together
Benitez had insisted the 1,200-mile journey by coach, train and eventually plane - after Uefa's insistence the match go ahead despite the volcanic ash cloud which grounded flights across Europe - had brought his squad closer together.

If only his defence had been tighter-knit in the ninth minute then they may not have conceded.

No-one will ever really know whether their exertions in getting to the Spanish capital had an impact but it was a sloppy piece of marking which cost them.

Forlan became something of a cult hero among United fans with both goals in a 2-1 victory at Anfield in 2002, albeit assisted by Reds goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek.

And it was he who returned to torment the Merseysiders when Jurado's cross from the left dropped over Jamie Carragher and picked him out on the edge of the six-yard area.

His first attempt at a header was reminiscent of those early United days when he earned the nickname "Diego Forlorn" because of his difficulty in scoring.

However, the Uruguayan is a better, more experienced - and even luckier - player now and as the ball from his duff header dropped right at his feet he poked it home off goalkeeper Jose Reina.

Had Benayoun enjoyed a similar slice of good fortune a minute later from Dirk Kuyt's cross his header would have nestled in the net instead of flying wide of the far post.

Wrong decision
The Israeli beat Atletico goalkeeper David de Gea eight minutes later but again the luck was against him, this time by virtue of a wrong offside decision.

Kuyt's miss-hit shot bobbled into the penalty area where Benayoun slotted the ball home only to be denied by an erroneous flag, as television replays proved.

Still Liverpool came forward and Steven Gerrard should have done better moments later when Lucas Leiva put him through only for the captain to shoot left-footed into the side-netting when he should have least hit the target.

But Atletico's threat had not diminished and their neat triangles in the final third of the pitch often cut open the visitors' defence.

Even right-back Tomas Ujfalusi got in on the act, weaving into the penalty area before shooting into the side-netting five minutes before half-time.

Forlan fluffed another a good chance soon after the break when he was put through on the edge of the penalty area but it was Reina's brilliance in producing a one-handed save which denied one-time Liverpool target Simao from Ujfalusi's cross.

The goalkeeper came to his side's rescue again as he beat away Ujfalusi's long-range strike and Carragher cleared as Atletico regained the initiative.

But Liverpool's experience and proud history, this match seeing them become the first English club to play in 16 European semi-finals, ensured they made a fight of it and, more importantly, did not concede again.

Of those 16 last-four encounters they have lost only four overall and their record when playing semi-final second legs at home is seven victories and one draw.

That statistic alone shows the power of Anfield on European nights.

Time will only tell how much Liverpool's long-distance travails on train, coach and plane cost them.

But, with fourth place in the Premier League looking beyond them, anything other than victory next week is likely to bring their season to a premature end.

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Thor Zakariassen