Saul Niguez's early strike was enough for Atletico Madrid to beat Liverpool 1-0 in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday night.
Niguez's fourth-minute strike proved decisive in the end, with Atletico doing what they do best in defending a lead in the most resilient fashion. Liverpool saw plenty of the ball but, though they can take comfort in the fact they have next month's return leg at Anfield to get their Champions League defence back on track.
It was an end to end stuff in a frenetic opening minute but Liverpool moved swiftly to address that, as Fabinho and Wijnaldum got on the ball and took the early sting out of the game.
Madrid got their just reward for taking the game to Liverpool from the first whistle. A corner was whipped into the Liverpool area, it cannoned around and fell for Saul Niguez six yards out, and he stroke home past Alisson to spark rapturous scenes inside the Wanda Metropolitano.
There was an initial hint of offside, but with the ball coming off Fabinho the goal stood as Liverpool conceded early in the 4th minute.
In the 26th minute, Virgil van Dijk made a huge mistake. The Dutchman lost his bearings and allowed a hopeful long ball to reach Morata, who raced into the Liverpool area, cut inside Gomez and fired a low effort on target which forced Alisson into action.
On the other end, Atletico committed a huge mistake. Oblak's punt out was miscued and fell to Salah about 30 yards in front of him in space, and Salah's first instinct was to pass ahead to Firmino inside the box. Firmino received it, passed back to Salah to roll into the net, but Firmino was offside and the goal was disallowed.
There was a change apiece for both sides as the second half resumed. Both appeared injury-related rather than tactical, as Divock Origi replaced Sadio Mane for Liverpool and Marcos Llorente replaced Thomas Lemar for Atletico.
Liverpool continued to dominate with 73% but could not break through stubborn Madrid defense. Salah came close to scoring twice but the Reds failed to have a shot on target for the entire match.
The second leg of the competition will be played in three weeks' time on March 11th, 2020 at Anfield.
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