There are no points in the Champions League for aesthetically pleasing or entertaining football but Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said something didn’t feel right about his team’s defeat by defence-minded Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
Holders Liverpool were hit by three goals in extra-time, losing 3-2 in the second leg of their last 16 tie at Anfield to go out 4-2 on aggregate and the German, who guided his team to the final in the past two seasons, couldn’t resist some barbed comments about his counterpart Diego Simeone’s tactics.
“I don’t understand with the quality they have, the football they play. They could play proper football but they stand deep and have counter attacks,” Klopp told reporters.
“We accept it of course but it doesn’t feel right tonight. I realise I am a really bad loser, especially when the boys put such an effort in against world class players on the other side who defend with two rows of four,” he said.
It was hardly a surprise, though, that the Spanish side adopted such an approach — a tight defence and compact midfield has been the hallmark of Atletico during Argentine Simeone’s eight years in charge.
Simeone cannot call on the world-class playmakers and strikers available to La Liga rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid and compensates with organisation, work-rate and an ability to work out the best way to punish opponents.
“We came here to win, I respect his identity and with the quality we have, we try to exploit deficiencies in the opposition, that’s what we do,” said the Argentine when confronted with Klopp’s criticism.
Klopp knows, however, that despite this disappointment, this is a memorable season for Liverpool who lead the Premier League by 25 points will surely be crowned English champions for the first time in 30 years.
So, he was not about to let his frustration turn into criticism of his strikers for the failure to convert chances into more goals.
“I loved the way we played in the 90 minutes, we played exceptionally well – for two and a half years we have had an exceptional ride in the Champions. Tonight, the crowd exceptional and the boys fought hard,” he said.
“We know in the last two years we had some lucky moments in the Champions League, you have to, to reach two finals, but today it was like everything was against us in the decisive moments.”