Atalanta stun abject Liverpool in Klopp’s final Europa League campaign


Gianluca Scamacca scores for Atalanta
Scamacca scored twice as Liverpool succumbed in the Europa League – Getty Images/Stu Forster

It was just as well the protesting supporters brought no flags to Anfield. They may have been at half-mast at full-time to signal the likely end of Jurgen Klopp’s final European adventure as Liverpool coach.

If this was Klopp’s last dance on a Uefa night on Merseyside, it was full of missteps – slow, sad and stumbling. Meek applause rather than customary fist pumps reflected the shock after the first home defeat in 34 games.

Optimists will dream on and suggest Klopp’s Liverpool farewell will not be complete without a stirring European comeback. Whether they have the capacity to pull it off once more against Atalanta next week is debatable. A fatigued, dishevelled Liverpool were ripped apart by the Italian side, who could have scored more than the three that secured a famous victory. They will back themselves to add to their tally in Bergamo.

History offers hope, of course. Klopp’s greatest scalp was against Barcelona five years ago, when his side faced the same first-leg deficit. It requires an imaginative leap to summon similarities. On that dizzying night in the Nou Camp, the three-goal defeat was a travesty. Liverpool could believe in miracles for the return.

This time, Liverpool must retrieve a near impossible situation amid the background of their season potentially fizzling out. This was their first game of six in 16 days – the worst possible time to look like they are running out of gas.

Their nemesis was a former West Ham striker, Gianluca Scamacca. He was cast as a misfit in East London delivering just three goals in 16 games following a £30 million transfer. English football may have misjudged him as he scored twice here, Mario Pasalic adding the third.

For all their excellence this season, Liverpool have been concocting some imaginative moments of self-sabotage. Think of Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson Becker’s hesitation against Arsenal, facilitating defeat in a momentum-shifting game for their title rivals.

Then there are those two trips to Old Trafford, orchestrating their loss in the FA Cup before inviting Manchester United to a ridiculous draw in last Sunday’s Premier League meeting.

If those dropped points owed a little to the inexperience of Jarell Quansah, a young player whose broader class kept Liverpool in the title hunt, their first headache here was due to Caoimhin Kelleher’s untimely error.

In mitigation, but for the Irish keeper Liverpool might have been three down at half time. He somehow thwarted Pašalić after three minutes, getting his forehead in the way of what looked like a certain goal. He also dashed from his line to prevent Teun Koopmeiners ushering in the catastrophic outcome sooner.

Kelleher will not shy away from culpability for the goal which had Liverpool chasing the game on 38 minutes, Scamacca seeing a decent but saveable attempt dribble under the keeper.

If such defensive generosity has become too frequent, so has carelessness at the opposite end. One could be forgiven for believing Liverpool are indulging in a bizarre experiment whereby they establish how many attempts are necessary before scoring.

Darwin Nunez was one of the culprits again, the Uruguayan having regressed in recent weeks to the player who oscillates between the extraordinary and infuriating. He was gifted an opening by a gorgeous Curtis Jones pass, but rather than administer the easy finish over an advancing keeper, he naturally chose a more elaborate chip, miskicked and saw the tame attempt drift wide. The Kop, usually the first to chant Nunez’s name no matter what he delivers, opted for silence.

There was more frustration when Harvey Elliott’s more accurate attempt was unfortunate to ricochet off the frame of the crossbar and post before bouncing to safety.

Jones was close with a near identical strike from the opposite wing. But Liverpool were nervous, too quick with the passing, and lacking poise, while persistently adopting a failing long-ball strategy.

Klopp’s team selection kept the cavalry on the bench. When he summoned Mohamed Salah, Dominik Szoboszlai and Luis Diaz it was too late.

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini arrived on Merseyside as one of only four managers to beat Klopp at Anfield in European competition. Now he has done so twice, inflicting Liverpool’s joint heaviest home Euro defeat in the process.

So often Klopp’s Liverpool have used Uefa competition to deliver performances that resonate around the continent. They did so for the wrong reasons here. This was an awful, chastening night leaving their treble quest in tatters, and just as bad for those Dublin hoteliers anticipating an invasion of red in May.

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Liverpool shocked at home – as it happened


10:28 PM BST

Jurgen Klopp speaks – ‘I want the players to feel bad’

On the defeat and performance…

“I have nothing positive to say…it became a bad game. It was not like us in possession – we were everywhere which means we were nowhere…I didn’t like our tactical positioning in possession. We gave them one situation by passing the ball there, then everyone was chasing another guy. We scored one that was offside but it was a bad game from us. It was a bad game from us and Atalanta had a good game and deserved to win.”

On the second leg…

“It’s too early to think about that. I’ll watch this game on Monday. If we do a couple of things better, then we will do better. Can we win in Bergam? Yes. Can we win 3-0? I have no idea.”

On what he wants after the shock defeat…

“We must feel bad, that was a really bad performance.We have to show a reaction immediately on Sunday.”

On Sunday’s match against Palace…

“We have to show a reaction on Sunday. In this moment the players must feel bad, I want them to go home and sleep bad. There were a lot of  performances where I thought ‘wow I didn’t know he could do that…’A lot of the players looked really alone in a lot of moments. It was really bad. We had our biggest chances in the end and didn’t use them. I know the boys can play better football but they didn’t do it tonight and we have to show a reaction on Sunday. I’m pretty sure they will do that.”


10:10 PM BST

The Telegraph’s Jamie Carragher has his say…


10:09 PM BST

Virgil van Dijk speaks – ‘We have to react quickly’

On the shock score…

“Defeat – we’re 3-0 down it’s not great.”

On reasons for the defeat…

“Too many individual mistakes and we got punished for it. The man-marking system they do, we have to do better with the ball. They won the 50-50 challenges and then had space and we were open.”

On current emotions…

“Very disappointing night for us.”

On what now…

“We can’t dwell on it too much. We have a big game [against Crystal Palace] at the weekend.”

More on the poor defending…

“Of course, we were wide open. But we conceded the goals as we lost the ball in important moments.”

More on what’s needed…

“We have to react quickly. It hurts, we haven’t lost here for some time.”


10:01 PM BST

These photos say it all for Liverpool

LiverpoolLiverpool

Liverpool

Liverpool SalahLiverpool Salah

Liverpool Salah

LiverpoolLiverpool

Liverpool


09:55 PM BST

Liverpool’s defending

Left a lot to be desired – they’ve struggled to keep clean sheets recently BUT tonight, from front to back they look abject. They gifted Atalanta possession with the second and third goals and all round looked nothing like a side challenging for honours.


09:51 PM BST

FULL-TIME: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 3

What a night for Atalanta and what a shock for Liverpool.

Klopp’s side have been beaten at home for the first time since February last year and at home in the Europa League for the first time since 2012.

It’s not just the defeat but the manner of it. The Italians put on a masterclass, they pressed high, defended well and attacked with verve. Three-nil does not flatter them, in fact it could easily have been more.


09:47 PM BST

91 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 3

They very nearly do as the ball comes in from the left and Jota heads over.


09:47 PM BST

90 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 3

There will be only three minutes added time – can Liverpool get one back and have something to take to Italy?


09:43 PM BST

85 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 3

Hands up who saw this coming? Anyone with your hands up is either Nostradumus or a big, fat liar.

Liverpool have been as ordinary and Atalanta have been brilliant.


09:40 PM BST

GOAL!

Liverpool 0 Atalanta 3

Shocking scenes at Anfield – yet more atrocious defending from the hosts. Pasalic with the third.

Atalanta have countered brilliantly all night an Exhibit A in that argument is this third goal. Scamacca collects the ball in the Liverpool half after the hosts (for the millionth time tonight) lose it, the Italians outnumber the hosts, he plays a brilliant dinky through ball for Ederson Silva whose shot is saved by Kelleher, but the rebound is knocked in by the free and easy Pasalic.


09:39 PM BST

80 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 2

It was very nearly a Scamacca hat-trick. The ball comes in from the right and he fends off two Liverpool defenders before heading over – he should have scored that.


09:37 PM BST

78 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 2

Liverpool have the ball into the back of the net! Hurrah (if you’re a Liverpool fan…) BUT Salah, the goalscorer is offside! Booooo (if you’re a Liverpool fan…).

Robertson drove into the Atalanta half at pace and with purpose before sliding a through ball to Salah on the left whose first-time shot finds the back of the net. Anfield erupted until the raised flag was spotted…


09:34 PM BST

76 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 2

Jota makes an instant impact – he drives towards the box on the right and forces Ruggeri into the foul. The Kop scream for the penalty but the foul was just outside the box and it’s a free-kick.

From the resulting set piece the ball comes out to Gomez and the defender shoot high over the bar causing Klopp to, understandably, go a bit mental on the touchline…


09:32 PM BST

75 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 2

The latest change for Liverpool sees Jota return to action for the first time since February, Endo makes way.


09:31 PM BST

74 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 2

Atalanta have a three-on-two counter, it comes to Scamacca but his cross is deflected into the grateful arms of Kelleher. That chance again came from a Liverpool mistake.


09:29 PM BST

72 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 2

There’s almost an element of panic in Liverpool’s play now – the passes aren’t as crisp as they were and they look hurried.

Atalanta have done a real number on the hosts tonight and have looked the better side and well worth the two-goal lead.


09:27 PM BST

70 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 2

While Liverpool started this half brightly Musso in the Atalanta goal hasn’t had much to do and all the good chances have gone the way of the Italians.

As I type, Gomez tries his luck from distance, the attempt goes wide.


09:26 PM BST

As cool a finish as you are likely to see

Scamacca makes it two with a peach of a first-time shot.

ScamaccaScamacca

Scamacca


09:22 PM BST

64 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 2

If Klopp isn’t having kittens he should be – it should be 3-0 to the Italians as once more an Atalanta man has the freedom of the north west in the Liverpool box. This time it’s Koopmeiners, he’s on the left and has time and space in which to pull the trigger, once he does he, thankfully for the hosts, pulls his shot well wide.


09:20 PM BST

62 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 2

Such was the ease with the finish from Scamacca (opened his body up and nonchalantly hitting it on the half-volley) that he may well have thought he was offside, which for the initial ball down the right he was…but may be I am doing him a disservice…


09:17 PM BST

GOAL!

Liverpool 0 Atalanta 2

More dire defending from the hosts and it’s Scamacca with his second.

After the bright opening to the second half the hosts are undone by some poor defending. The danger is again down the right the ball comes into the box and the big striker is unmarked as he hits it first time into the back of the box. You could have flown a jumbo jet between Gomez and Konate. Soooooooo much space…bizarre.


09:15 PM BST

58 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 1

Another Liverpool change – Nunez makes way for Diaz. Gakpo has played way and Nunez was the obvious man to make way.


09:13 PM BST

56 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 1

Liverpool’s latest corner comes after a good Musso save from Salah. There is a lot more energy to the hosts this half and as I type there’s another chance – Robertson and Gakpo create the chance down the left before Nunez’s shot goes over the bar.

It’s been said many times before but I’ll say it again, Nunez needs to hit the target more. That effort there saw him lean back as he hit it…


09:11 PM BST

53 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 1

Free-kick for the visitors as Endo is accused of handling the ball just outside the area. Koopmeiners (I think) fires in a low shot-cum-cross that Kelleher does well to get down low to.


09:08 PM BST

51 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 1

It’s another Liverpool corner, it’s whipped into the near post and Van Dijk heads over the bar.


09:07 PM BST

50 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 1

Liverpool seeing plenty of the ball, it’s all been in front of the Italians and they haven’t been troubled this half.


09:06 PM BST

49 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 1

Corner for Liverpool – can they create something from this? ‘Nope’ is the answer as the ball is delivered deep, not once but twice and it’s easy for the Italians to defend.


09:04 PM BST

47 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 1

Atalanta again are causing a nuisance of themselves in the Liverpool box, Koopmeiners again to the fore. The hosts force a bit more last-ditch defending. They are certainly not resting on the 1-0 lead.


09:02 PM BST

45 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 1

Back under way at Anfield. TRIPLE CHANGE for Liverpool Salah, Szoboszlai and Robertson on, Elliott, Jones, Tsimikas off. No real shock there – they need a bit more pace.


08:51 PM BST

HALF-TIME: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 1

Kelleher has made two outstanding saves, but was at fault for the sole goal. However, both those great stops were down to Liverpool losing the ball and then defending brittlely. The hosts controlled most of that half but could so easily be two-down. Klopp sprints off down the tunnel and it’s not hard to see why, he has a lot to think about.


08:48 PM BST

44 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 1

It’s so nearly 2-0 – Atalanta are looking good when in possession. The ball comes again to Koopmeiners who has the freedom of Liverpool (where is the left-back Tsimikas?) he does everything right as he drives towards the box before trying to dink the ball over the on-rushing goalkeeper, Kelleher rushes off his line and make another great save. The Liverpool stopper atones for his mistake with the goal there.


08:46 PM BST

42 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 1

Liverpool give the ball away again and again are nearly punished. The Atalanta forward line are looking lively as the ball comes to Koopmeiners and the hosts scramble to prevent a clear shot.


08:38 PM BST

GOAL!

Liverpool 0 Atalanta 1

Good ball in and it’s Scamacca with the opener.

Once again the visitors have some joy down the left, Zappacosta crosses low and the in-form striker’s first-time shot goes under the diving Kelleher. The Liverpool goalkeeper should have done better there.


08:37 PM BST

33 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 0

Atalanta haven’t seen much of the ball these past 10 minutes and Liverpool are controlling the tempo having weathered the early Italian storm.

That effort from Elliott hits the bar and post as Musso in the Atalanta goal can only look and hope it doesn't go inThat effort from Elliott hits the bar and post as Musso in the Atalanta goal can only look and hope it doesn't go in

That effort from Elliott hits the bar and post as Musso in the Atalanta goal can only look and hope it doesn’t go in – Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith


08:32 PM BST

30 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 0

Liverpool are finding their mojo – there are some short, neat passes on halfway before Gakpo tries a long diagonal to Elliott, but it’s just too long. They are certainly the team in control now.


08:29 PM BST

28 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 0

Another curled effort from the hosts – this time it’s Curtis Jones (making his first start in a while) whose attempt from the left goes just  high, and just wide…


08:28 PM BST

25 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 0

It’s been a good, entertaining game so far. Both sides asking questions of the other.


08:27 PM BST

22 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 0

Nunez goes down right on the edge of the box. Free-kick for the hosts and a yellow card for Hien.

Can Liverpool work something from this set-piece? They so very nearly do. The ball is delivered from the left, it’s partly cleared, but only as far as Elliott who creates some space in the box before curling an effort to the far corner – it’s so close to going in as it comes back of both (I think) the crossbar and left upright.


08:22 PM BST

19 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 0

Liverpool have gained a modicum of control these past five minutes but are still having to hit the odd ball long – as they do while I type that sentence – Tsimikas forlornly chasing a hoof down the left.


08:20 PM BST

More protest banners from the Kop

Fans protest ticket prices on the KopFans protest ticket prices on the Kop

Fans protest ticket prices on the Kop – Shutterstock/Adam Vaughan


08:18 PM BST

14 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 0

No sooner has I typed that Liverpool weren’t flowing than they find Nunez free in the inside-left channel. He’s clear, the Atalanta goalkeeper Musso is off his line and it’s crying out for the forward to open his body up and hit it into the far right corner. But he tries to dink it over the onrushing Musso and the attempt goes wide of the left upright.


08:15 PM BST

13 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 0

Liverpool have not yet found their rhythm, that’s down to the Italians pressing high and asking questions of the hosts’ defence.


08:14 PM BST

11 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 0

Another good chance for Atalanta. They attack down the right before delivering the ball. It comes to Koopmeiners who has time to take a touch, but instead backheels it to Scamacca whose shot is well blocked. That was a great chance and the Italians are playing confidently.


08:12 PM BST

10 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 0

After that chaotic start the match has settled down a bit with the Italians forced Liverpool to pass back.


08:11 PM BST

Fans make their point over ticket prices

With no flags and this banner…

The Kop says no to ticket price risesThe Kop says no to ticket price rises

The Kop says no to ticket price rises – Reuters/Molly Darlington

KOPKOP

KOP


08:06 PM BST

4 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 0

This already an open game – Liverpool break at pace into the Italians’ half forcing the defence into a last-gaps block. Less than a minute later Mac Allister has a shot that goes over the bar.


08:05 PM BST

3 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 0

What a save by Kelleher – Elliott loses the ball, the Italians work the ball into the box and it breaks for Pasalic whose shot is from all of five or so yards, but the Liverpool stopped gets his body in the way and prevents an inevitable goal.


08:02 PM BST

2 mins: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 0

Good start from the hosts – nice move Endo finds, Gakpo who feeds Nunez who isn’t on the same wavelength as he lets the ball get stuck underneath his feet.


08:00 PM BST

1 min: Liverpool 0 Atalanta 0

They’re under way at Anfield, Liverpool are in their famous red, Atalanta are in white.


07:56 PM BST

The teams are out on the pitch

And we’re moments away from kick-off.


07:54 PM BST

Souness, McDermott, one of Harry Enfield’s Scousers…

Liverpool fansLiverpool fans
This little lad is playing up to a former Liverpool stereo type with aplomb… – Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

07:51 PM BST

Klopp on his starting XI

“We need to have fresh legs but keep the rhythm where we can. We have to invest a lot, go for them. I’m happy with the line-up, happy with the options on the bench. We’ll see if we can use them.”

Also starting on the bench - Luis DiazAlso starting on the bench - Luis Diaz

Also starting on the bench – Luis Diaz – Getty Images/Alex Dodd


07:30 PM BST

Disharmony between club and fans

Liverpool have said there will be a 2 per cent increase in the cost of season tickets and members’ tickets for next season.

This hasn’t gone well with fan groups, who feel at a time when many are struggling due to the cost of living crisis, the club should show some self awareness and help out their supporters’ loyalty.

By way of response fan group Spion Kop 1906 confirmed there will be no flags on the Kop tonight.

“We are disappointed in the football club’s decision towards ticket prices for 2024-25,” they said on social media. “There is still a chance for the club to hold some positive dialogue with the supporters board in time for Saturday’s meeting.Until then the supporters have one message: No to ticket price increases.”

Asked about the issue this week, Klopp said: “What we should make sure is that there is nothing that gets between us and the supporters. Discuss it. But between the two big whistles, we just have to be Liverpool. That is what I am asking for. They will find a solution I’m sure.”

READ: Jurgen Klopp in awkward position over Liverpool ticket price increases

Anfield flagsAnfield flags

This is a sight that won’t be seen tonight as fan protest at ticket-price increases – Getty Images/Andrew Powell


07:21 PM BST

Jurgen Klopp speaks – ‘Atalanta are super dangerous’

On the chance to win the one trophy missing from his Liverpool cabinet…

“It’s not personal for me, it’s for us. Eight years ago when we played in Basel and lost against Sevilla it was not a great start – but [it was] the start for many other things.”

On tonight’s opponents…

“[Gian Piero] Gasperini has been doing a brilliant job for years. Tactically, they are super-disciplined and super-dangerous in other areas. We are not thinking about the final. We really have to be at our best.”

On the busy fixture list…

“It’s not so much about training, it’s about meetings, analysis, media – stuff like that. This rhythm is normal for us. We don’t train a lot, we prepare.”


07:09 PM BST

How they line up

LIVERPOOL XI TO FACE ATALANTA: Kelleher, Gomez, Konate, van Dijk, Tsimikas, Jones, Mac Allister, Endo, Elliott, Nunez, Gakpo. Subs: Diaz, Szoboszlai, Salah, Adrian, Jota, Robertson, Gravenberch, Clark, Bajcetic, Alexander-Arnold, Quansah, Bradley.

Klopp clearly feels Salah needs a break as the Egyptian King starts on the bench. Diaz also starts on the bench, with Tsimikas in for Robertson.

SalahSalah

Salah is sitting this one out (at least at the start) – Reuters/Molly Darlington

ATALANTA XI TO FACE LIVERPOOL: Musso, Zappacosta, Djimsiti, Hien, Ruggeri, Ederson Silva, de Roon, Pasalic, Koopmeiners, Scamacca, De Ketelaere. Subs: Toloi, Holm, Toure, Lookman, Bakker, Adopo, Carnesecchi, Rossi, Hateboer, Bonfanti, Miranchuk.

Referee: Halil Meler (Turkey)


07:01 PM BST

Another big European night at Anfield

Although Juergen Klopp received a big boost this week with the return of four key players to training, the Liverpool manager is uncertain whether they will feature in tonight’s Europa League quarter-final first leg against Atalanta.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Diogo Jota, Alisson and Stefan Bajcetic are all close to full fitness with Liverpool also in the thick of the Premier League title race.

“Obviously, we didn’t rush it with them,” Klopp said. “Trent and Jota have been training together a lot for a couple of weeks. They did a lot of training but they were doing very well yesterday.

“We will see how they go but they are back in training and we have to see how we use them. Yes, we need them back but we need them in the best possible shape and we need them in rhythm.”

Liverpool, who won the League Cup this season, are level with Arsenal on 71 points atop the Premier League table although trail on goal difference. They squandered a chance to claim top spot outright with a 2-2 draw at Manchester United on Sunday.

“Very disappointed after the game but it was quickly forgotten about,” midfielder Harvey Elliott said. “The good thing about football is we’ve got another game to focus on.”

The Liverpool players would love to win the Europa League for Klopp in his last season with the club.

“With the gaffer leaving at the end of the season, winning it would be the best possible way for that to end,” Elliott said. “We as players will be doing everything we can for that to happen and we want to give everything back to him.

“He’s been so influential in all our careers.”

Liverpool travel to Atalanta, who are sixth in Italy’s Serie A, on April 18 after hosting Crystal Palace in the league on Sunday.

Klopp said planning for so many games was not a problem.

“We didn’t really have this last year because we were knocked out of Europe pretty quickly but other than that, it’s a pretty standard situation for us,” he said. “It’s not much about training, it’s about meetings and analysis and that kind of thing

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