Klopp gamble backfires as Liverpool stunned at Anfield by Atalanta

Date published: Wednesday 25th November 2020 9:56 - Dave Tindall

Jurgen Klopp’s decision to send out a weakened side against Atalanta went horribly wrong as Liverpool crashed to a 2-0 Champions League defeat at Anfield.

While Alisson remained in goal, the Reds boss made three changes at the back from the team which won 3-0 over Leicester on Sunday.

Joel Matip kept his spot. But there were starts for teenagers Rhys Williams at centre-back and Neco Williams at right-back. And also a place at left-back for new Greek signing Kostas Tsimikas.

In midfield, Curtis Jones retained his place alongside the more experienced heads of James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum.

And, up front, Mo Salah returned to the side having sat out the Leicester game due to a positive COVID-19 test. He was part of a three-man attack alongside Sadio Mane and Divock Origi.

But the gamble to try and rest other key stars went up in smoke as the Italians emerged as worthy winners.

Papu Gomez – an Argentine wearing a No.10 shirt – was the chief architect. And perhaps that was destiny on the day which Maradona passed away.

On the hour mark, he curled in a lovely cross from the left which Josip Ilicic prodded home on the edge of the six-yard box.

And just four minutes later, his dinked cross created a second. Hans Hateboer headed the pass back across goal and the unmarked Robin Gosens fired past Alisson from close range.

It gave the Italians welcome revenge for their heavy 5-0 mauling at the hands of Liverpool in Bergamo.

And with Ajax beating Midtjylland 3-1 in the other game, Group D now takes on a different complexion.

Liverpool still hold the aces.

But their lead at the top has been cut to two points. They have nine, with both Ajax and Atalanta on seven with two games to go.

The Merseysiders looked disjointed from the start.

Indeed, for much of the first 45 minutes, the visitors were ahead on the possession count.

While creating little clearcut themselves, they almost surprised in the ninth minute.

Gosens ran onto a pass down the left and struck a ferocious shot from an acute angle. It almost beat Alisson at his near post but the Brazilian stuck out a firm hand to beat the left-foot strike away for a corner.

Atalanta continued to look the better side but Liverpool finally had an effort on goal in the 44th minute.

Jones and Tsimikas combined nicely down the left before the ball broke to Salah on the edge of the box. However, on his weaker right foot, he smashed his shot over the bar.

Subs can’t save disappointing Reds

With little changing early in the second half, Klopp’s patience seemed to run out.

He lined up a raft of changes but, while waiting for a break in play to bring them all on, Atalanta took the lead.

The quartet of changes did eventually come as Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota, Andy Robertson and Fabinho were all introduced. Salah, Origi, Tsimikas and Wijnaldum made way.

However, before the changes could bed in, Atalanta struck again to double their lead.

The hosts huffed and puffed after that but never looked like retrieving the deficit.

And that meant Atalanta became the first team to win at Anfield in 90 minutes since Chelsea in September 2018.

Victory would have sent Liverpool into the knockout stages after just four of their six group games. They’d won the previous three and kept a clean sheet in each.

The Reds will get another chance to do that at home to Ajax next week. But they’ll have to play a whole lot better than they did on Wednesday night.

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