Champions League: Liverpool suckerpunched by Diego Simeone's Atletico; Tottenham hobble out vs lethal Leipzig

The second-leg of the Champions League's last 16 brought shocking results and scoreline that has left many crestfallen with the two finalists from last season bowing out.

Srijandeep Das March 12, 2020 15:27:12 IST
Champions League: Liverpool suckerpunched by Diego Simeone's Atletico; Tottenham hobble out vs lethal Leipzig
  • Defending champions Liverpool were knocked out of Champions League after losing to Atletico Madrid as the Spanish side scored three goals in extra-time in second leg.

  • A double from Michael Sabitzer and a late strike from Emil Forsberg caused the exit of Tottenham, the first of the two finalists from last year's Champions League.

  • PSG also qualified for quarter-finals by defeating Borussia Dortmund 2-0 at home after losing away 1-2 in Germany.

The second-leg of the Champions League's last 16 brought shocking results and scoreline that has left many crestfallen with the two finalists from last season bowing out. Here's a round-up of the matches and the first batch of the teams qualified for the quarter-finals.

Liverpool 2-3 Atletico Madrid (Atletico hijack a 4-2 win on aggregate)

When one of Aesop's wolves pupped his cheek and blew at the last piggy's brick and mortar house, it did not fall. It is a type B124 folktale in the Aarne-Thompson classification system. The Aarne-Thompson index classifies and catalogues narrative and plotlines in folktale studies. Every single storyline you have read, heard, seen, is a combination of two or more of these samples.

Champions League Liverpool suckerpunched by Diego Simeones Atletico Tottenham hobble out vs lethal Leipzig

Atletico's coach Diego Simone greets Liverpool's Mohamed Salah at the end of the Champions League last-16 second leg match. AP

What happened at Anfield was like the story of three little pigs, minus the pigs. Liverpool lost 2-3 at home, tumbling out of the frame of defending their European crown in a rage of figurative background explosions like a stunt double in the set of Rambo. Their exit has sent shockwaves, stirred butterflies in the inhabited volcanic island of Oshima on the Izu archipelago in the Philippine Sea. If a place on earth is inhabited there will be at least one yelling Liverpool fan in every other neighbourhood. And last night, the steady yells of almost-elation turned to howls of desperation.

In this story, there was a fox who bested the beastliness of the wolf, by the aid of his slyness.

Liverpool pummeled the Atletico goalposts — Andy Robertson almost scored on his birthday. The Liverpool fullbacks were playing like wide forwards, more advanced than their strikers oftentimes. The tactic was to stretch the boundaries of the pitch like an elastic band. Gain inches, centimetres of maneuverability, to screw the hinges off of the Atleti door. Gini Wijnaldum's superheroic header on the 43rd minute sprayed a feeling of we-know-what-happens-next across Anfield.

There was a knowing belief that game will follow the script of past Anfield second-leg deficit overturned. Roberto Firmino scored on the 94th minute in extra time, having gone without scoring the entire season. It was going to be storybook run from here to Istanbul and retaining the trophy in the same place Gerrard and the class of 2005 lifted it. It was going to be more imperious, more emphatic. But this isn't that alternative timeline. The narrative was invaded like a chicken coop.

As panic grew, as the 90th minute and extra time approached, that effort of precision took on the shape of desperation. Trent Alexander-Arnold pumped crosses without mindfulness, shots that had time to be taken pragmatically were bundled over with a disquieting urgency that erred on the side of error. In other words, Liverpool's giddiness to score made them a more anxious unit as the time was winding down.

It was then Diego Simeone instructed his team to squeeze higher up on counters, allocating more men on the front foot positions. All the three goals Liverpool conceded were results of pure mental fatigue. Marcus Llorente on the 97th and the 105th minute (of extra time) and Alvaro Morata on the 120th minute of extra time. Both were tactical substitutes from Simeone, sent out to pause then plunder. Both of the substitutions came off.

The shame is that this game will be reduced to a scoreline or a stat. Like: it's been 6 years since a team has beaten Liverpool at their home ground in the Champions League, and that time it was Real Madrid. Seen in isolation, it's heartbreaking, more so because of Liverpool on the basis of effort alone should have gone through — 71 percent possession, 16 corners to Atletico's 3, 34 shots to Atletico's 6 on target.

Atletico dressed in black, the colour of pantomime villain, added to Liverpool's anxiousness like a looming shadow. Firmino's should have vanquished wiles of Simeone.

But as Jurgen Klopp will know, the world in total is facing a scarcity of miracles, and there's no reason that the rules are different for football. The team has the ending of a 30-year-old domestic championship drought to look forward to and on course of breaking the points total. And that's not a bad consolation.

PSG 2-0 Borussia Dortmund (PSG advance 3-2 on aggregate)

More than the match lets talk about two moments that defined it. Not the goals per se, but the follow-through. PSG players got together to mock 19-year-old Erling Braut Haaland's padmasana goal celebration. Twice.

Haaland's two goals over PSG in the first leg was taken as a personal affront by Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and the gang. How could an upstart out of nowhere, from a minor footballing nation, rob spotlight from PSG's prima donnas even for a minute?

Neymar swan-dived in the box to get at the end of a scoring header on the 28th minute, and pretended to be hurt in a foul before realising a goal was scored. Then he instantly got up to celebrate it.

On the 45th minute, Julian Bernat's intended low cross skewed into the far corner turning into a well-placed finish.

History will wait for Haaland's repartee.

The other moment that defined the night was this: PSG players sneaked past security to celebrate with fans waiting outside the stadium. The game was played behind closed doors in midst of coronovirus contamination fears. This breach of security is both romantic and alarming: Romantic because at this juncture of time, with the downturn of the economy, self-isolation, waiting for the worst, PSG shared a moment with a few who had the live joy of football to look forward to. Alarming because football is downplaying the threat of a pandemic.

Responsibility and awareness start with the players and goes all the way up to the programmers and executives. Carrying on with a cross European competition, not postponing it, seems like a move that is entirely money-facing. History can wait.

RB Leipzig 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur (Leipzig saunters through 4-0 on aggregate)

A double from Michael Sabitzer and a late strike from Emil Forsberg caused the exit of Tottenham, the first of the two finalists from last year's Champions League.

Champions League Liverpool suckerpunched by Diego Simeones Atletico Tottenham hobble out vs lethal Leipzig

Tottenham's manager Jose Mourinho comforts Lucas Moura after losing to Leipzig in Champions League. AP

Watching Timo Werner going up against Eric Dier was equal parts cruel and entertaining. The catlike German international had the England man chasing reflections on the walls. The success of this Leipzig team lies in its verticality. The passes are steep and reaching, like Reinhold Messner climbing the face of Mont Blanc, daring and supremely deliberate with each precise movement.

Tottenham set out for the counter-attacking approach, not dissimilar to the plan Atletico had against Liverpool, but the execution and the momentum were lacking in their shoal, and in the number of goal-creating chances.

Jose Mourinho's team moved with the urgency of continental drift, while Julian Nagelsmann's team, armed to the teeth with fully actualised tools of their technique and belief, planted their flag.

Valencia 3-4 Atalanta (Atalanta waltzes past Valencia 8-4 on aggregate)

Villarreal, the once Spanish minnows were called the Yellow Submarine for their low-key, under-the-surface ruthlessness during the early 2000s of the Champions League timeline. Atalanta are this edition's u-boats. New and possibly even more lethal.

A Josip Ilicic 4-goal rout for Atalanta, including two penalties pipped the two-goal heroics of Valencia's Kevin Gamiero is this free-for-all encounter. Ferran Torres was the scorer of the last goal for Valencia, but that was merely a consolation.

For every wave of Valencia attack, there was an equal or more momentous Atalanta counter. It'd be remiss to give Atalanta all of the credit — Valencia drilled into their own hulls by giving away two back-to-back penalties. The timing of Gamiero's strikers did spread hope around the Mestalla, but it was cut short by another comedy of errors from a team who have resigned themselves to go through purgatory in light of their series of bad moves on and off the pitch.

Ilicic was allowed time and room to come back for two more and become the first player to score 4 away goals in the competition. Atalanta now finds themselves in the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

If you consider the kind of narrative trails Atlanta, Leipzig and Atalanta are blazing, this might be the story where Lil Bo Peep's sheep blows the European top-tier clubs' roof down.

Updated Date:

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