Two former Premiership players combined to end Liverpool’s Europa Cup hopes.
Ex- Arsenal winger Jose Antonio Reyes showing more quickness than Glen Johnson, headed the ball past the full back and quickly controlling fired a cross to the incoming Diego Forlan. The Man Utd reject sent Liverpool into agony with a superb finish.
The Colchoneros progressed to the Europa Cup finals against Fulham on away goal advantage, ending both legs on a 2-2 aggregate. It was the 101st minute of an absorbing semi-final clash.
The match began with a lively Liverpool showing intent as Kuyt, Benayoun, and Gerrard kept the Atletico defense busy with a number of corners and scoring chances. But Atletico with Simao Sabroso, Sergio Aguero, and Diego Forlan punctuated that dominance with their counterattacking punch.
In the 43rd minute the wily Benayoun loses his marker off a throw in and scampering down the right flank centers the ball which Kuyt at full stretch misses. But Alberto Aquilani, backing up, with a first time shot squeezes the ball past David De Gea. Excellent adjustment, perfect execution. (video)
The match goes to extra time as the teams end 1-1 on aggregate. In the 94th minute, Lucas Leiva spots Benayoun who drifts in from the left and lofts the ball over the Atletico defense. The Israeli midfielder wastes no time as he swings at the arriving ball and puts it past De Gea into the bottom of the right hand corner of goal. (video)Liverpool up 2-1 on aggregate and in the drivers seat as it seems.
But it turned out to be Atletico as they redoubled their efforts to find the equalizing goal. It was Forlan with the final say.
The Colchoneros now meet Fulham, the Premiership’s Cinderella team whose come from behind win against Hamburg encapsulates a dream season for the Cottagers.
For Liverpool it was a continuation of a frustrating season. It has been a season of no resolution, in the boardroom and on the field. The club deals with alarming levels of debt, an ownership that remains deeply unpopular, and a manager who has two camps when it comes to his future. In short, a club in suspended animation. Where the club goes from here is as good as anybody’s guess. But if this situation continues, Rafa will move to Juventus.