A last minute dodgy penalty ensured Liverpool gained a point in a disappointing European game at Anfield.
Liverpool failed to get out of the blocks in a miserable first half performance, and it was Atletico who struck first and then threatened to defend their one goal advantage for the rest of the game.
With Torres out, Rafa yet again opted to play the single striker up front with both Mascherano and Alonso playing behind Gerrard.
The reds opened poorly, the passing was sloppy and they failed to get a grip on the game. Buoyed by the excellent Atletico fans – Madrid’s confidence was high. The reds were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty when Agger was fouled in the box, and after a neat move Maxi Rodriguez fired Atletico in the lead with a goal in front of the Kop in the first half.
The reds toiled away for most of the first half. Keane had an excellent chance to score for Liverpool when he found himself one on one with the keeper but hesitated too long and took the ball wide of the keeper. It was a sign of the lack of confidence of the striker.
Worse was to come for Robbie. With Liverpool one down and desperately in need of a goal – Rafa decided enough was enough and brought off his £20 Million striker with 20 minutes left.
The second half was Liverpool domination. Atletico didn’t get a single shot in the half and despite turning down several real penalty shouts for Liverpool from handballs – the referee eventually awarded Liverpool a soft free kick. Pernia got the slightest of touches on Gerrard who took the gift and went down. As Gerrard said post-game, if it was anywhere else on the pitch it would have been a free kick, but Liverpool escaped defeat.
Gerrard fired home from the spot with seconds left.
Liverpool deserved the draw – but the performance was poor.
Qualification moves a step closer.
“Had that offence against Steven taken place in the middle of the pitch it would have been a free-kick, so it was a penalty. “The key for us was not to lose in such a tight match.”
“We are still right up at the top with them, we can both qualify.”
“I was a long way from the incident so I could not see properly. But how things change in one minute of football.
“We were in the last 16 and Marseille had beaten PSV, and then we concede a penalty and it is snatched away, but we just have to keep on fighting.
“But I was still very happy with the team effort and the way we worked as a group, maybe we did not get the win we deserved.
“We have produced an outstanding team performance against a very good team and we are still very close to qualification.”
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Mascherano (Leiva Lucas 77), Alonso, Kuyt, Gerrard, Riera (Babel 61), Keane (Ngog 71).
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Benayoun, Degen.
Goals: Gerrard 90 pen.
Atletico Madrid: Franco, Antonio Lopez, Perea, Heitinga, Pernia, Raul Garcia, Paulo Assuncao, Maniche, Maxi, Forlan (Aguero 71), Simao (Luis Garcia 90).
Subs Not Used: Coupet, Sinama Pongolle, Banega, Pablo, Camacho.
Booked: Maniche, Perea, Heitinga, Pernia, Aguero.
Goals: Maxi 37.
Ref: Martin Hansson (Sweden).