Atalanta hold firm to finish Liverpool off in Europa League quarter-finals

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Atalanta hold firm to finish Liverpool off in Europa League quarter-finals

Liverpool couldn't turn around the three-goal deficit
Liverpool couldn't turn around the three-goal deficitAFP
Liverpool’s 250th victory in UEFA competition was not enough to right the wrongs of last week’s first-leg display, as they exit the Europa League at the quarter-final stage with a 3-1 aggregate loss to Atalanta.

On the road against a defensively astute Italian side with only 750 supporters to back them, the Reds were going to need a heroic display to recreate that famous European comeback against Barcelona in 2019.

To aid their conquest, Matteo Ruggeri clumsily left his arm outstretched in the 18-yard box as Trent Alexander-Arnold hit a cross, so when the ball made contact referee François Letexier did not hesitate to award award a penalty after only five minutes.

Mohamed Salah converted the spot-kick, sending Juan Musso the wrong way, at the exact same timestamp as Divock Origi’s opener five years ago. Belief began to escalate.

But the task at hand came with new difficulties. Twice in the past Liverpool have lost European knock-out first-legs on home soil, and twice they have exited in the same round.

They ended the first half with a warning as Teun Koopmeiners converted from a clear offside position, before asking the question of Letexier to dismiss Isak Hien for a handball that seemingly denied Luis Diaz a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Key to a fightback would be patience, in the knowledge that 63 percent of their goals this campaign have come during the second half of matches, or extra-time.

Match stats
Match statsOpta by StatsPerform

20 minutes passed following the restart with no change to the scoreline, so the services of Diogo Jota, Darwin Nunez and Harvey Elliott were required all at once.

Gian Piero Gasperini was quite happy to stack his ranks behind the ball and look to counter precisely, which made life extremely difficult for the visitors.

Liverpool’s substitutions made mere ripples when they were required to turn the tide, and with one shot on goal throughout the entirety of the closing 45 minutes, the once favourites to win the competition were sent home in disappointment.

Joyous scenes erupted inside the Gewiss Stadium as the full-time whistle was blown, as La Dea have a second semi-final to look forward to this season.

Meanwhile, Liverpool, like rivals Arsenal and Manchester City, who were both eliminated from the Champions League this week, now only have the Premier League title to play for if Jurgen Klopp is to depart with one more major honour.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

Get all of our stats from this match here.

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