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Liverpool 0 Atalanta 3 (Apr 11 2024)



Tell me, could you possibly be the same Liverpool Gladstone Trotter who, in 1992, fell down the cellar of Spartak Moscow, and received one hundred pounds compensation? I can’t remember that far back sir.


Well, let’s try a more recent case then. Could you be the same Liverpool Gladstone Trotter who, in 1995, fell down the cellar of Brondby, and received a two hundred and twenty five pound out of court settlement?


Me mind’s a blank!


Maybe you were the same Liverpool Gladstone Trotter who, in 1997, fell down the cellar of Racing Strasbourg? How about Celta Vigo, or does Sporting Braga, ring a bell?


Whilst we haven’t been more down holes than Tony Jacklin, boy have we made some huge fuck ups in the UEFA Cup/Europa League over the years. I actually researched the litany of exits listed above to make sure they were in the right order and it just made me shudder. And so, the cup match reporter returns for another outing – join me, Dan Thomas, as I try to pick apart the latest UEFA Cup/Europa League fiasco.


I have been very dismissive of this competition over the course of the season, and I stand by everything I’ve said. The Europa League is laden with nothing teams as well as 5 or 6 really good ones. We have gotten to the quarter finals without even needing to go into first gear, we’ve been in neutral in fact. And the first time we’ve drawn a good team, we’ve got our arses handed to us on a silver platter.


Assuming that is the last European action we see at Anfield under Klopp, it’s a grim way to end it. A really unfitting way for this glorious period to come to an end, drifting away into nothing. I have this down as being one of the worst performances during Jurgen’s time at the club. It’s definitely the most costly.


Yes, I know it’s just five years since one of the greatest footballing miracles of all time when the mighty Barcelona were overwhelmed by a raucous Anfield. But this team is not that one – we will go to Bergamo next week, and we might win on the night. Will we go through? Not a chance for me – we simply aren’t playing well enough. Thursday night was a result in the post, a result that has been coming after a string of performances where we were just asking for it.


Atalanta played the game perfectly – they contained us with ease after 20 minutes, quietened the crowd down from a quiet whisper to total silence and it’s comfortably their best result in European football. Fair play to them – they man marked us into nothing and got men forward when they had the ball. Gasperini is an experienced manager who knew exactly what he was going to set up to do and his team played it to perfection. They stitched us up a treat.


Us on the other hand…. This would be a very brief match report if I used some suitable adjectives – and I have plenty in mind. However, let’s deep dive. Firstly, the atmosphere was dreadful. I wholeheartedly blame the owners for this. I think a second price rise in 12 months is crass, insensitive and reprehensible and has been communicated awfully. You’re already getting your two extra Champions League games next season – there’s your increase in revenue. Get in the sea.


And anyone who is saying “it’s only £x” or “give me your ticket then” you can also get in the sea. The cost of living has not come down, bills haven’t come down, going to the match isn’t something we need to go up in price in addition to everything else. And to announce this after that scandalous United result and before a home quarter final. Some real thinking, that. Boneheads.


The atmosphere was flat before the game and during it and it’s of no surprise. The club have to own that. I do also think there was some complacency from fans as well – it didn’t feel like a quarter final at any point. It frankly had the feel of a group game when you’ve already qualified with a game to spare. Flat, passionless, barely above a whisper for the majority of the game.


We were just awful from start to finish. We were lucky to not go behind inside of three minutes when Kelleher made a great save with his face. I thought it was a foul on Elliott personally but it wouldn’t have been overturned had they scored. Kelleher did all he could – make himself as big as possible, use his body as a goalkeeping glove, and kept it out with his grid. It was another slow start, the same as the Sheffield United game when we could have been behind inside of 5 minutes. It is a pattern, it badly needs addressing, and we will not achieve the heights we can until this absolute plague has been cut right out.


We did actually recover from that terrible start, apart from Kostas who had his worst game for the club – possibly the worst game of his entire career in fact. He was so bad he could have been substituted at half time twice – once to get brought on and once to get taken straight off. He was wretched. Again though, it was final ball and decision making that let us down. Gakpo, who I thought was our best player by a mile in the first half, was lively on that left hand side and he could have put Elliott in but didn’t get his head up.


Now that I am thinking and looking back, we actually created a few chances at 0-0. Nunez went through and inexplicably stuck it wide. I haven’t seen it back (and I never will) but did he kick the ball onto his own foot or something? It went well, well wide and I was expecting a lovely little clip over the keeper into the net a la Brentford. And from that moment, we barely created a better chance. This is just who Darwin is unfortunately – you don’t know what you’re going to get and this match was one of those days where nothing went right.


Elliott did hit the bar and post with a great effort cutting in from the right, really unlucky and it did start to feel like we were building up a head of steam. And then bam, behind. We lost possession far too easily, Atalanta countered quickly and Scamacca’s shot squirmed through Kelleher and in answer to the age old thing, yes “Alisson saves that.” The manner of the goal was frustrating as much as it was concerning – they cut through us way too easily. We nearly went further behind after Kelleher gave the ball away too easily but he atoned for it with a good save as the impressive Koopmeiers closed in on goal.


We got to the break and the word “ragged” was being thrown around at half time as well as “disrespectful” and “arrogant.” The sentiment around me was that we should have gone full strength to try and finish the game off and then make changes. Whilst we rotated, I had the team that we put out as capable of winning the match. But we played so poorly the whole thing has spectacularly backfired. You could in theory have made 11 changes at half time. Well, 10, no situation can be saved by bringing Adrian on.


As it turns out, it was Tsimikas, Jones and Elliott were the ones who were taken off. Tsimikas was the worst player on the pitch by a mile, Jones has not looked sharp since returning from injury and I think Elliott was a bit unlucky to be honest. But with Salah on the pitch we’ll make at least 5 or 6 chances for him to miss, right?


Wrong! We did start the second half well and were pressing for an equaliser. We should have had it as well but Nunez lifted it over the bar. Again. Very frustrating because that puts us right back in it and Atalanta don’t have experience of Anfield on the up with the Reds pursuing a winner. I think we’d have rolled them over.


We then got sucker punched. We weren’t building up a head of steam don’t get me wrong, but we were definitely on the front foot and then Atalanta broke down the right, De Ketelaere just stayed onside and swung an absolute peach of a ball across. All Scamacca had to do was guide it with his foot – Kelleher was flat footed and had no chance. Tidy finish, great ball in. 2-0 and getting towards famous European night in the second leg territory. It also caused all of the Atalanta fans in the Upper Kenny to celebrate and cause the usual trouble. I have no idea why that happens but it does in every European home game. It just ends with a load of stewards standing around their fans. But I digress.


As that goal went in, Darwin went off. I have no idea if that was pre-planned or what, but bringing Nunez off when you need a goal is not what I’d be doing. As frustrating as his finishing can be, he looks like he is going to make something happen at all times. Diaz came on and played with plenty of endeavour but there was just nothing in and around him. It was such a flat performance we were lucky to end up with 0. Salah was unlucky though, his shot forced the keeper into a good save.


We then had the ignominy of a Dejan Lovren moment. The SHOOOOOOOOT dickheads in the crowd got their way as the ball fell to Joe Gomez outside the box. Instead of trying to lift the ball back into the packed box, Gomez decided to blaze it into the Kop. Yet again, playing Joe Gomez’ Shooting Challenge.




May I suggest a cross into the box?


You have selected POWER DRIVE!


Ball is in THE KOP. Would you like to play again?


You have selected NO.


That just summed the game up, it was a terrible decision when much better options were available. That’s the story of our last month really, since that FA Cup game. We are wasting chance after chance, or not creating a chance because of making a terrible decision. It’s going to kill us if we don’t sort it. Not that I am blaming Joe Gomez for that. I will blame the knobheads in the crowd shouting SHOOOOOOOOOOT though.


At 2-0 down in the first leg, you’ve always got a chance. Given the absolute state of how we played, I’d have been happy to take 2-0 and get back to Bergamo still in the tie. It briefly looked like we’d go back at 2-1 but Salah just went too soon – and I don’t think he needed to. He did look just off as the ball went in and I spotted the flag right away – a long time before several people around me did.


Jota came on with 15 minutes left and the first thing he did was win a free kick on the edge of the box. But the reality of the situation is that we were putting way too much expectation on someone coming back from months out injured. The fact he’s back for the run in is a bonus full stop as I was worried he was gone for the season.


Atlanta should have scored a third before they did, with Koopmeiers firing a good chance across the goal and someone missed a great chance with a header. But it didn’t matter in the end, they were rewarded for the way they set up and the way they played with a third. Ederson (not the dipshit with the neck tattoo) was afforded way too much time to shoot, and Kelleher could only parry the ball into the path of Pasalic who gleefully tapped in. Game over. Tie over? Almost certainly.


As the third went in, commence Operation Anfield Exodus. And I don’t blame anyone – but that is as big a mass exit as I’ve seen and as far as the performance goes it was well deserved. It was an absolute shambles – we had the chances for it to be 3-0 the other way but didn’t take them, we shipped a couple of awful goals and it is just a terrible way for Jurgen to sign off in European football at Anfield.


You could not rule out us going out there pissed off, fired up and winning 5-0. We’ve done exactly that in the last 3 years. But for me, we’re not playing well enough, we have key players out of form at the exact wrong time and we will end up going out.


Star man? The full time whistle. But our “best” player on the night was arguably Gakpo and that is up for discussion because he fell off a cliff second half.


Team: Kelleher; Gomez, Konate, Van Dijk, Tsimikas (Robertson); Endo (Jota), Jones (Szoboszlai), Mac Allister; Elliott (Salah), Nunez (Diaz), Gakpo: 

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Nice job with that Dan, excellent report.


Honestly won't be at all shocked if we still go through. They'll shit themselves if we get on top and grab a couple of goals.


The problem is that we'd have to expend a lot of energy doing it and then have to go to Fulham at the weekend. And Fulham are the weirdest team in the league. Either brilliant or shite. And we know which one will show up against us.

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1 hour ago, dave u said:

Nice job with that Dan, excellent report.


Honestly won't be at all shocked if we still go through. They'll shit themselves if we get on top and grab a couple of goals.


The problem is that we'd have to expend a lot of energy doing it and then have to go to Fulham at the weekend. And Fulham are the weirdest team in the league. Either brilliant or shite. And we know which one will show up against us.

The alternative of us having the opportunity of resting players or even having a ten day break never works well under Klopp though, as much as he references and moans about excessive workload. 

We’re a team that needs momentum. 

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Good report in the circumstances Dave. Now for a thought which may not go down well: Darwin is a luxury Liverpool can’t afford. My reasoning is this - for a club which isn’t backed by oil every quid spent has to hit the mark, so when we go out and spend c£85 large on a striker, we need the guy to have a high conversion rate in terms of the chances that come his way. Not only that, but at the bare minimum we need that same guy to have a high percentage in terms of hitting the target with his chances (you never know what happens when you do). Darwin is not that guy. Loveable, exciting player? Yep. Captain Chaos? Of course! Aldridge/Rush type player who you would bet the ranch on scoring a decent opportunity? Not a fucking chance. Will he ever be….dunno, sort of doubt it. The miss in the first half is one of the worst I’ve ever seen, not because it’s a ‘glaring’, open goal. No, it’s his thought process/technique: he’s on the left side of the goal with the keeper begging to be chipped, but Darwin makes connection with the instep of his right foot. What the actual fuck was he expecting to happen? I’d have put money on Danns knocking that in ahead of Darwin, and what does that say about Nunez? Sorry folks, I’m not looking a pile-on on Darwin, it’s just an honest opinion that might not go down well. If we’re happy with the loveable rogue who needs 10 or so chances to score 1 then we’re grand. If not… 

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Great report with a few laughs to cheer me up.

Couple of things I want to see going forward,

Stop giving chances away in the first five minutes, it seems to happen every game now and will bite us in the arse if they go in and shut up shop.

I want players to have the balls to tell Klopp they don't feel up to it, (hi Mo) if they're feeling an injury.

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The performance in that game was incredibly worrying. I know Klopp announced he was leaving a while ago now but I can't help feeling it has affected the players maybe on a subconscious level. Didn't Ferguson once announce he was leaving half way through a season only for his team to fall off a cliff afterwards, so much so that he reversed his decision. I hope something similar isn't happening with this group of players. 

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Atalanta deserve credit for the manner in which they played the game. Likely they hoped, rather than expected, their tactics to stifle us, and the manner in the way we performed meant they did exactly that, and then some. I bet they couldn’t believe their luck.

I think everyone has been afraid of us putting in a performance like that in given how we’ve been performing (and as I’m writing this just after the Palace game, we now know it hasn’t been a one off), and we’ve been too lax at the back and too profligate up front for much of the season. Not the form of Champions really. 
The fact we’re still hanging on in the league is something of a testament to the players and management team, especially the youngsters who have come in and acquitted themselves so well, even though they’ve frustrated the hell out of us by getting so close, and technically we’re still not out of the running for a treble.

Practically though, we’re the third best team in the league and we should be the best team by a distance in the Europa League.

I hope we put in a performance in Bergamo and at least win, even if it’s unlikely we do by four goals, and we can all hope against hope that City and Arsenal pay too much attention to the CL and allow us in through the back door in the League.

Dreamer aren’t I.


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