Forlan took advantage of some slack Liverpool defending to score
By Phil Minshull
in the Vicente Calderon stadium
Atletico Madrid will take a slender Europa League semi-final first-leg advantage to Anfield next week thanks to a ninth-minute strike from former Manchester United front man Diego Forlan.
In truth, however, the Spaniards will be regretting missing several opportunities to add to their advantage.
Liverpool, perhaps tired after their gruelling 1,200-mile journey by land across Europe, will be grateful that they will not have to recover from a two or three-goal deficit following a poor game only redeemed by two good saves by goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
Both sides went into the match missing key strikers and opted for a lone man up front with Atletico's Argentine international Kun Aguero suspended while injury denied Liverpool's Fernando Torres the chance to play against his former club.
Atletico initially seemed to suffer the least from the absence of one of their key players.
The Spanish side decided to test their visitors from the whistle and it quickly became apparent that the Liverpool back four were not sure how to deal with ex-Arsenal man Jose Antonio Reyes and Simao operating down the wings, with Jose Manuel Jurado playing just behind Forlan.
Just nine minutes into the game, Jurado floated a cross to Forlan's head but, despite hardly making any contact, the Uruguayan international got a second chance when the ball fell to his feet and he poked it past Reina.
The Liverpool defence recovered from the initial shock and gradually started to pick up their men but little creatively was coming out of the midfield with captain Steven Gerrard having another indifferent game.
They were, however, unfortunate not to level when Yossi Benayoun beat Atletico goalkeeper David de Dea - but his effort was wrongly ruled out for offside.
Both sides failed to make the most of their first-half free-kicks and corners and were guilty of poor passing from set pieces as well as when going forward.
Finally, Liverpool started to come into the game with 10 minutes to go before half-time with, for the first time, Dirk Kuyt starting to find his range from out on the right flank.
However, Atletico almost went two in front four minutes before the break when their Czech defender Tomas Ujfalusi stripped Daniel Agger of the ball on the right side of the box and skipped past two weak challenges before, trying ambitiously to score from a narrow angle, putting the ball into the side of the net.
Atletico had another good chance just before the hour but a great save from Reina denied Simao, whose thunderous volley from an Ujfalusi cross looked on its way into the top corner.
Despite Benitez swapping the ineffective David Ngog for Netherlands winger Ryan Babel after 63 minutes, the Dutchman fared little better with the chances he was offered, squandering an excellent opportunity in front of goal four minutes after getting on the pitch.
The impressive Ujfalusi had another good effort with a rasping left foot shot 15 minutes from the end but Reina again showed why he is almost certainly going to be in Spain's World Cup squad, despite the plethora of options available to Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque.
The final minutes saw Liverpool - who have became the first English club to play in 16 European semi-finals - becoming increasingly desperate.
And Atletico responded with some crude challenges which saw Valera get a late yellow card.
90:00+2:47 Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Jose Manuel Jurado from the right by-line.
90:00+2:04 Corner from the right by-line taken by Jose Manuel Jurado, clearance made by Glen Johnson.
90:00+1:03 Substitution Jose Antonio Reyes goes off and Nacho Camacho comes on.
88:28 Unfair challenge on Jose Antonio Reyes by Javier Mascherano results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Alvaro Dominguez.
85:25 The referee blows for offside. David De Gea takes the direct free kick.
84:01 Substitution Eduardo Salvio joins the action as a substitute, replacing Diego Forlan.
83:40 Booking Juan Valera goes into the book.
83:27 Jose Antonio Reyes produces a cross.
82:45 Substitution Yossi Benayoun goes off and Nabil El Zhar comes on.
82:24 Booking Sotirios Kyrgiakos receives a caution for dissent.
81:25 Yossi Benayoun fouled by Silva Paulo Assuncao, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick crossed by Steven Gerrard.
79:57 Free kick awarded for a foul by Ryan Babel on Juan Valera. Free kick taken by David De Gea.
77:50 Glen Johnson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jose Antonio Reyes. Jose Manuel Jurado delivers the ball, Headed
effort from inside the box by Escudero Raul Garcia misses to the right of the target.
76:35 Substitution Sabrosa Simao goes off and Juan Valera comes on.
75:49 Shot by Tomas Ujfalusi. Save by Jose Reina.
74:00 Foul by Daniel Agger on Jose Antonio Reyes, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by David De Gea.
73:12 The referee blows for offside against Diego Forlan. Jamie Carragher restarts play with the free kick.
71:15 Dirk Kuyt is caught offside. Free kick taken by Luis Amaranto Perea.
66:01 Glen Johnson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jose Manuel Jurado. Direct free kick taken by Guerrero Antonio
63:51 Substitution Ryan Babel joins the action as a substitute, replacing David Ngog.
63:19 Silva Paulo Assuncao concedes a free kick for a foul on Dirk Kuyt. Steven Gerrard has a direct shot on goal from the free
60:25 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Sabrosa Simao by Glen Johnson. Sabrosa Simao takes the free kick.
57:41 Short corner taken by Jose Manuel Jurado.
57:13 Sabrosa Simao has an effort at goal. Save by Jose Reina.
53:21 Dirk Kuyt challenges Jose Manuel Jurado unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Guerrero Antonio Lopez.
53:05 Diego Forlan takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina.
45:01 The game restarts for the second half.
45:00+0:11 The players leave the pitch at half time.
41:01 Effort on goal by Tomas Ujfalusi from inside the box misses to the right of the target.
39:40 Silva Paulo Assuncao challenges Javier Mascherano unfairly and gives away a free kick. Daniel Agger takes the free kick.
38:51 Free kick awarded for a foul by Daniel Agger on Escudero Raul Garcia. Sabrosa Simao delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed
from right channel, Dirk Kuyt makes a clearance.
36:54 David Ngog is caught offside. Luis Amaranto Perea takes the free kick.
28:31 Escudero Raul Garcia challenges David Ngog unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Daniel Agger.
21:54 Long range shot by Jose Antonio Reyes goes over the bar.
20:41 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Dirk Kuyt by Guerrero Antonio Lopez. Direct free kick taken by Glen Johnson.
18:15 Steven Gerrard produces a drilled left-footed shot from deep inside the penalty area which goes wide of the left-hand post.
17:32 Yossi Benayoun is flagged offside by the assistant referee. David De Gea takes the free kick.
15:28 Dirk Kuyt sends in a cross, Luis Amaranto Perea makes a clearance.
12:55 Sabrosa Simao takes the inswinging corner, Dirk Kuyt makes a clearance.
11:00 Diego Forlan is ruled offside. Glen Johnson restarts play with the free kick.
9:49 Glen Johnson delivers the ball, Yossi Benayoun has a headed effort at goal from close in which goes wide of the left-hand
8:17 Assist on the goal came from Jose Manuel Jurado.
8:17 GOAL - Diego Forlan:Atletico Madrid 1 - 0 Liverpool Diego Forlan grabs a goal from close in to the bottom left corner of the goal. Atletico Madrid 1-0 Liverpool.
6:14 David Ngog gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Luis Amaranto Perea. Luis Amaranto Perea takes the direct free
2:45 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Escudero Raul Garcia by Javier Mascherano. Guerrero Antonio Lopez takes the direct
0:29 Unfair challenge on Jose Antonio Reyes by Steven Gerrard results in a free kick. Jose Antonio Reyes delivers the ball from
the free kick left-footed from right wing.
0:00 The referee gets the game underway.
Live text and data provided by The Press Association.
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