Pre Season Friendly
Saturday 8th August 2009, Anfield.
The most anticipated pre-season friendly in years, Liverpool played out their first friendly for the season in front the Kop.
It was a special afternoon in store with Fernando Torres finally making an appearances against his former club, Atletico Madrid – but it was also a return for the first time for Florent Sinama Pongolle, who left for Atletico Madrid after a stint with the Reds. Add to that, this was the first chance for the Anfield faithful to see their new right back Glen Johnson in action at Anfield since his move from Portsmouth.
The game started scrappy, with Liverpool having much of the ball but it was a case of one chance, one goal for Atletico as Aguero found the net with a diving header in the 13th minute after peeling away from Daniel Ayala in the 6 yard box.
Jamie Carragher was then substituted 3 minutes later with what looked like a minor knock by San Jose.
Liverpool responded to the early set back through Mascherano’s perfect through ball for Torres from the halfway line but Torres’ heavy first touch meant Atletico could clear, but only momentarily as the ball fell for Dirk Kuyt – but it was just out of reach.
In what proved to be a hectic back end to the first half, the Reds saw a penalty appeal turned down as Torres surged down the right hand side of the area to be brought down by Juanito.
A minute later, Glen Johnson picked up a throw in and dribbled past two Atletico players to play a through ball for Gerrard on the edge of the box, but after Gerrard got on the end of the pass, he shot wide.
Almost immediately after, Gerrard and Torres linked up and when Gerrard released Torres he had a defender to beat, but his attempted square ball back to Gerrard was deflected out for a non-threatening corner.
Aguero was proving to be a thorn in the defence and after a long ball went to Ayala, Aguero placed pressure on the ball carrier and won it down the right hand side and proceeded to run into the box, but the tight angle allowed Reina to come out and smother with ease.
Liverpool went two goals down just a matter of moments later as former Manchester United striker, Diego Forlan, picked the ball up on halfway, passed forward to Simao and the flick on back to Forlan saw him finish beautifully from the edge of the area and beyond Reina after being given too much space by Ayala and Johnson.
Liverpool refused to give up, as is often with the Reds, and Torres latched onto a perfectly played Gerrard through ball and, one on one with Asenjo, you’d have put your house on Torres scoring but his shot hit the inside of the post and bounced clear.
The last piece of action of note from the first half saw Torres once again break through the defense after picking up a stray ball in midfield and running past four defenders, but his square ball back to Gerrard was blocked out.
The second started with a great chance for the Reds. Gerrard curled in a corner and Lucas rose highest to glance one across goal but, despite two red shirts being unmarked, neither got to the ball with the goal gaping.
Johnson fought hard down the right and won the ball from the Los Colchoneros defence deep in their half and linked up with Kuyt, who laid off for Torres to get a cross in and Gerrard’s desperate lunge saw the ball trickle just wide of goal.
Another apparent penalty was turned down on 55 minutes as Lucas knocked a superb 40 yard ball for Benayoun, who crossed for Gerrard and in attempting to knock the ball in space, the defender used his arm to help clear the ball while in the box. With the referee on the spot to make a call, all appeals were ridiculously waved away.
Torres continued his brilliance in the second and dazzled three defenders before getting past two more, but as he shaped to tee up a team mate, Asenjo came out to block.
Pepe Reina almost suffered embarrassment in the 75th as he attempted to dribble past Aguero but the Argentine anticipated it well and it took a last ditch recovery from the Spaniard to save himself.
A more encouraging display in the second period saw Liverpool rewarded with a goal to Lucas Leiva. After an attempted clearance fell to Gerrard, Lucas hung back on the defensive line unnoticed and after Gerrard picked him out with a sublime through-ball, Lucas proceeded to slot home expertly, leaving the Reds with a one-goal deficit with ten minutes to go.
Another penalty appeal was turned down in the 85th minute as Lucas tapped the ball to his advantage in the box but as he shaped to shoot, was barged off it.
That could have evened things up on the day but it wasnt to be, as Atletico Madrid ran out 2-1 winners.
An injury to Jamie Carragher will cause some concern as the Reds defense was shaky throughout in his absence but many positives to come out of this final encounter before the start of the Premier League in 8 days.
Aguero (15), Forlan (33), Lucas (82)
Liverpool Starting XI: Reina, Insua, Carragher, Sanchez Ayala, Johnson, Benayoun, Mascherano, Leiva, Kuyt, Gerrard, Torres.
Our Man of the Match: Lucas