Liverpool advanced to the last 16 of the Champions League with a comfortable win over 10-man Atletico Madrid, ensuring that they will finish first in Group B.
Early goals by Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane, both set up by Trent Alexander-Arnold, put the Reds in complete control, and once Felipe was sent off before halftime, there was no way back for the Spanish side.
After the break, Jurgen Klopp’s side should have piled on the pressure, but they missed a flurry of chances, and Jota had another strike ruled out for offside by the video assistant referee.
Atletico thought they had equalized on a deflected shot by former Reds striker Luis Suarez, but VAR ruled it out for offside, and they never seriously threatened a comeback.
The win not only advances Liverpool to the knockout stage with two games to spare, but it also extends the Reds’ unbeaten start to the season to 16 games.
They have not lost in 25 matches, dating back to 6 April, when they were defeated by Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of last season’s Champions League.
Recent meetings between these two sides have been a little tense, as evidenced by the atmosphere inside Anfield from the start, and this game was no exception.
Liverpool took around 10 minutes to find their feet, but then tore into Atletico and began creating chances, with their fans providing a raucous backdrop.
With a delicious whipped delivery, Alexander-Arnold put the first goal on a plate for Jota, and while it was unclear whether he meant a shot or a cross for his side’s second, the end result was the same thanks to Mane’s alertness at the near post.
Those two goals were enough to secure the points, and the game was effectively over when Dutch referee Danny Makkelie decided Felipe’s swipe at Mane’s heels warranted a straight red card.
The home crowd did not get the flood of goals they desired in the second half, but they did get to boo Suarez at every touch until he was substituted shortly after his goal was disallowed.
When Atletico Madrid last visited Anfield in March 2020, the country was about to go into lockdown due to Covid-19, and Liverpool had been eliminated from the Champions League in the last 16 after a 4-3 aggregate defeat.
Almost 20 months later, Coronavirus still casts a shadow over football – only 200 Atletico fans made the trip due to concerns about the Delta variant – but Liverpool’s current form suggests their latest European adventure is just getting started.