Liverpool’s bid to secure early qualification to the Champions League knockout stages suffered a surprising blow as Atalanta claimed a deserved 2-0 victory at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp made five changes to his line-up following the impressive win over Leicester on Sunday, but his team struggled to click in a low-key first half despite seeing top scorer Mohamed Salah return following his absence due to Covid-19.
Atalanta were much-improved from their 5-0 home loss to Liverpool prior to the international break and took advantage of the hosts’ limp display courtesy of two goals in four second-half minutes.
Josip Ilicic scored the opener on the hour mark before Robin Gosens coolly guided home a knockdown.
Klopp threw on Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino as part of a flurry of changes but they could not turn the tide.
Robin Gosens celebrates scoring for Atalanta
Image credit: Getty Images
The result sees the Reds remain top of Group D on nine points, two clear of Ajax who beat rock-bottom FC Midtjylland. Atalanta are level on points with the Dutch giants in third spot.
Liverpool will now turn their attention to the Premier League trip to Brighton on Saturday, prior to a key Champions League showdown at home to Ajax on Tuesday night.
Klopp’s orchestra hit the wrong notes. Ahead of the contest, Klopp spoke about his players being part of an orchestra and each of them playing different instruments important for the rhythm. It was in answer to a question about Roberto Firmino, but it was a nice analogy about how the team needs to function as a unit. Unfortunately for the Reds boss, his side produced a rare off-day where many of them were out of tune and out of sync.
Liverpool could have clinched a place in the last 16 with a victory but were way below par as a mix of fringe players and first-team stars struggled to gel. Despite the shock loss, they will still be confident they can put it down as a blip and complete the job in hand with games against Ajax and FC Midtjylland still to come.
Ironically, if Klopp had gone with a stronger line-up from the start they may not have been so flat and could have potentially claimed the win that would have meant he could have rested players in the final two group games.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Papu Gomez (Atalanta). It was fitting that a diminutive Argentine No 10 produced such a fine showing on the day the great Diego Maradona passed away. The Atalanta forward was at the heart of his team’s best moments and it was his cross that created the all-important opener. He also had a hand in the second goal.
Liverpool: Liverpool: Alisson 7, N. Williams 6, R. Williams 6, Matip 7, Tsimikas 6, Milner 6, Wijnaldum 6, Jones 6, Mane 5, Salah 5, Origi 5. Subs: Fabinho 6, Firmino 6, Jota 6, Robertson 6, Minamino n/a.
Atalanta: Gollini 7, Toloi 7, Romero 7, Djimsiti 7, Hateboer 7, de Roon 7, Freuler 7, Pessina 8, Gosens 8, Gomez 9, Ilicic 8. Subs: Mojica 6, Zapata 6, Miranchuk n/a.
9’ - ATALANTA CHANCE! Super stop from Alisson! The Brazilian does well with a big strong arm at his near post after Gosens had hit a thumping shot from the left side of the area.
60’ - GOAL! – Liverpool 0-1 Atalanta. Ilicic lurks at the post and times his well to fly in and stab Gomez's superb cross beyond Alisson.
64’ - GOAL! – Liverpool 0-2 Atalanta. The visitors make it two! Gosens side foots home a knock down following another cross from the left by Gomez.
- For the first time since Opta have shot data available in the Champions League (since 2003-04), Liverpool failed to record a single shot on target in a home game in the competition.
- Liverpool lost a competitive home match by a margin of more than one goal for the first time in 137 matches at Anfield under Jürgen Klopp, with this their heaviest such defeat since August 2015 in the Premier League against West Ham under Brendan Rodgers (0-3).