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Italians slam the brakes on off-colour Liverpool

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Red alert: Josip Ilicic of Atalanta celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal in the stunning win at Anfield

Red alert: Josip Ilicic of Atalanta celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal in the stunning win at Anfield

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Red alert: Josip Ilicic of Atalanta celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal in the stunning win at Anfield

It was 4.13pm when the words dropped, circling the world and jolting everyone it reached. Argentina's largest newspaper, Clarin, had tweeted that Diego Maradona was no more after suffering cardiac arrest.

Everything stopped. Surely not? Sadly so. Then everything raced.

It seems off track to talk, write about or analyse football so quickly after the game losing a man who decorated it, mastered it and inspired multitudes - not least Lionel Messi.

The show must go on, but sometimes it does so as background noise. Yes, even an important Champions League game at Anfield. Tributes flowed pre-match from Liverpool and their visitors Atalanta.

Jurgen Klopp was asked about Maradona's passing before kick-off. "I'm 53-years-old and it feels like my entire life, he was part of it," the German said. "When I was very young, I saw him for the first time. In any video, juggling the ball, from that moment he was the player for me."

There was a minute's silence before the first whistle and when it went, Atalanta were quicker out of the blocks.

Alisson was forced into action when Robin Gosens ran onto a pass down the left and unleashed an unexpected shot from an acute angle.

In an effort to manage injuries and ensure fresh legs, Klopp made five changes. There were run-outs from the off for Neco Williams, Rhys Williams, Kostas Tsimikas and Divock Origi, with Mohamed Salah returning.

Liverpool's rejigged line-up were careless in possession and failed to create anything of note in the first half. They managed one shot in total, which wasn't on target, with Atalanta the superior side.

It was not a shock to see the Italians fired up, given it was an opportunity to erase some of the humiliation from their 5-0 hammering in the reverse fixture.

Klopp was incensed with the display from his charges in the first half and his fume from the technical area didn't dissipate after the break.

Atalanta finally received their reward for being sharper after a superb ball from Alejandro Gomez, which Josip Ilicic connected with and converted.

Directly after the goal, substitutes that Liverpool were waiting to bring on were introduced: Andy Robertson, Fabinho, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino replacing Tsimikas, Gini Wijnaldum, Origi and Salah.

Their presence didn't change much. A floated ball from the left was headed back across goal to Gosens, who had space and time to sidefoot an effort into the net.

And so, the background noise faded. Rest in peace, Diego Maradona.

LIVERPOOL: Alisson, N Williams, R Williams, Matip (Minamino, 85mins), Tsimikas (Robertson, 61mins), Jones, Milner, Wijnaldum (Fabinho, 61mins), Salah (Firmino, 61mins), Origi (Jota, 61mins), Mane.

Subs not used: Adrian, Kelleher, Cain, Clarkson, Koumetio.

Atalanta: Gollini, Toloi, Romero, Djimsiti, Hateboer, De Roon, Freuler, Pessina (Al Miranchuk, 85mins), Gosens (Mojica, 75mins), Gomez, Ilicic (Zapata, 70mins).

Subs not used: Palomino, Lammers, Muriel, Piccini, Rossi, Ruggeri, Scalvini, Panada, Sportiello.

Referee: Carlos del Cerro Grande (Spain)

Man of the match: Gosens Match rating: 7/10

Belfast Telegraph


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