Diego Simeone admitted Atletico Madrid’s 1-0 win over Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano was vital for his side given their indifferent LaLiga form and having described Jurgen Klopp’s men as the “best side in the world”.
Saul Niguez scored the only goal of a dour last-16 contest at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Tuesday, leaving Klopp and his Premier League leaders needing a turnaround in the second leg in three weeks’ time.
Anfield has played host to many famous European nights, the greatest of which arguably came last season as Liverpool overturned a 3-0 deficit against Barcelona in the semi-finals.
The Atletico crowd certainly played their part in a ferocious atmosphere in the Spanish capital and Klopp was quick to ask his own supporters to produce their own version ahead of the return leg.
Simeone was also quick to acknowledge his supporters and the Argentinian paid tribute to the attitude of his battling players and the fans for creating a ferocious atmosphere.
Simeone said: “My side started winning when we came up the road leading to the stadium.
“We saw players who believed. We saw the beautiful side of football. The crowd and the side were a block as one.
“Winning breeds winning. The best way to feel strong is to win and that’s what we want to do. It was a very important win for the club tonight.
“In the eight years I’ve been here, I’ve not seen the crowd like that for the whole game. It was really emotional.
You often hear that a manager "kicks every ball" with his team from the sidelines…
But Diego Simeone takes that to a whole new level 😮
A manager who lives and breathes for his team. pic.twitter.com/A1ByqjIYvv
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 19, 2020
“It’s not the best night ever because we didn’t win a trophy but there are nights you don’t forget.
“The best side in the world came here, and we beat them. But it’s only one game down, one to go. Liverpool had their chances. They were dangerous, they’ve got good players all over the pitch.”
Klopp had did not have much issue with those defensive tactics but he and his players grew increasingly irritated by time-wasting and other acts of gamesmanship.
Klopp revealed his feelings when asked why he withdrew Sadio Mane, who had been booked, at half-time.
He said: “Obviously the plan was to get Sadio out of the game with a yellow card. I was afraid his opponent would go down even if Sadio takes a deep breath or whatever, so I didn’t want to have that situation. That’s why we took him off.
“It was difficult for the referee to deal with the atmosphere but after 30 minutes three Atletico players were already on the ground without being injured. The ref just needs to feel that game a little bit more.”