Saul Niguez Leads Atletico Madrid Past Liverpool 1-0 in UCL Round of 16 Leg 1

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2020

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 18: Saul Niguez of Atletico de Madrid celebrates his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Atletico Madrid and Liverpool FC at Wanda Metropolitano on February 18, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid hold the advantage at the halfway stage of their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie with Liverpool, earning a 1-0 win over the holders at the Wanda Metropolitano on Tusday. 

The match got off to a perfect start for the hosts, with Saul Niguez prodding home from close range after a penalty-box scramble. Liverpool's response saw them have a lot of the ball, but they were able to create little in terms of clear-cut chances in the first half.

In the second period, Mohamed Salah planted a header wide, while Alvaro Morata embarrassingly missed his kick when presented with a glorious opportunity to double his team's advantage.

It meant that it's the La Liga side who take a slender lead back to Merseyside. The second leg will be played at Anfield on March 11.

With the crowd up from kick-off, the match was ignited by Atletico's early goal. The Reds were unable to clear a corner, and the ball fell perfectly into the path of Saul, who had an easy task to poke home: 

Per Spanish football writer Dermot Corrigan, the midfielder tends to pop up with goals on the biggest stages: 

Unsurprisingly, Atletico were happy to surrender territory and possession following that early strike. The Premier League side pushed forward as a result, although they were unable to find a way through the massed ranks of red and white jerseys.

Liverpool did have the ball in the back of the net at one stage, having broken away after an Alisson Becker save from Morata. However, Salah failed to control the ball after Jan Oblak's error, with Roberto Firmino picking up possession in an offside position.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made the big decision to withdraw Sadio Mane from the action at half-time. David Lynch of the Evening Standard commented on what was a frustrating evening for the Senegal international: 

In the second half, the pattern of the game remained the same. Liverpool looked more likely to unsettle the Atletico back line though, with Salah heading wide after a pinpoint Joe Gomez cross.

Atletico continued to carry a threat on the break, and Morata missed a glorious chance to double their advantage, slipping at the crucial moment when brilliantly placed.

Meanwhile, Ian Doyle of the Liverpool Echo commented on the defensive application being displayed by the home team: 

Klopp made another big call in the search for an equaliser when Salah was taken out of the action in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. However, as the match moved towards the latter stages, the visitors seemed to be running out of ideas in the final third.

It meant Atletico were able to see out the final moments, and there was a sense that Liverpool were content with the scoreline as an all-out attacking approach didn't come. While they were unable to score a key away goal on the night, Atletico still face a huge challenge if they are to progress after the second leg at Anfield.

  

What's Next?

Liverpool continue their march towards Premier League glory Monday when they host struggling West Ham United. Atletico are back in action on Sunday, with Villarreal the visitors.  

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