Mon. Mar 30th, 2020

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Dortmund Beat PSG In Champions League Clash, As Atletico Stun Liverpool In Last 16 First Leg

5 min read

Forward Haaland took his tally to 11 goals in seven games since Dortmund paid Salzburg 20 million euros ($22 million) for the 19-year-old with second-half goals either side of Neymar’s equaliser.

The Brazil star, who has been sidelined for the last four weeks with a rib injury, gave PSG a life-line with an away goal for the return leg in Paris on March 11 in their bid to reach the quarter-finals after exiting the last 16 in the last three consecutive seasons.

 

 

 

After Haaland stabbed home at the near post to give Dortmund a deserved lead mid-way through the second-half the world’s most expensive player profited from Kylian Mbappe’s final pass and tapped home the equaliser.

 

 

 

After the Neymar missed last season’s surprise last-16 loss to Manchester United with a foot injury, this was exactly what travelling Parisian fans at Signal Iduna Park had wanted to see.

 

 

 

However, PSG were level for just two minutes as Dortmund’s 17-year-old midfield replacement Giovanni Reyna put a pass inside which Haaland smashed into the top corner for the winner.

 

 

 

Dortmund deserved the win with PSG’s star-studded attack, led by Mbappe and Neymar, repeatedly frustrated with Dortmund’s defensive midfielders Axel Witsel and Emre Can on hand to snuff out attacks.

 

 

 

There was very little to separate the teams in the first-half with a saved shot from Dortmund’s English winger Jadon Sancho the only clear-cut chance of the opening 45 minutes.

 

 

 

Dortmund kept finding plenty of holes in midfield with Witsel calling the shots.

 

 

 

His midfield partner Can, whose loan deal from Juventus was made permanent earlier in the day when he signed a four-year contract, had a penalty appeal waved away by referee Jose Montero after being clattered in the area by Marco Verratti.

 

 

 

After the goalless first half, Dortmund poured forward and kept finding spaces to exploit down the flanks.

 

 

 

Soon after Dortmund’s Swiss coach Lucien Favre threw on Reyna, who turned 17 last November, for his Champions League debut, Haaland got the breakthrough soon after when he stabbed home past PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas on 69 minutes.

 

 

 

With their German coach Thomas Tuchel frantically urging them on, PSG were level six minutes later when Mbappe unpicked the Dortmund defence and presented Neymar with a straight-forward finish.

 

 

 

However, the scene was set for Haaland to continue his phenomenal scoring run with some clinical finishing from Reyna’s final pass when he blasted home the winner to the delight of the home crowd.

 

Atletico Madrid Stun Liverpool

Saul Niguez raised the roof at a bouncing Wanda Metropolitano by scoring in the fourth minute before Atletico’s defence kicked in, suffocating the European champions and denying them a single shot on target.

 

 

 

If Alvaro Morata had not slipped when given a good chance in the second half, Atleti might even have taken a two-goal lead to Anfield, where they can expect an onslaught next month.

 

 

 

Yet even if Liverpool are still favourites to overturn this deficit and go through, the roar from the Atleti fans at the final whistle, aimed at their fist-pumping players on the pitch, suggested Simeone’s team now believe.

 

 

 

Few had tipped them to keep this tie even alive for the second leg, let alone progress, given their own stuttering form while Liverpool, unbeaten in the Premier League, are gunning for a treble.

 

 

 

Jurgen Klopp said on Monday Atletico were a “results machine” but the temptation was to see his words as platitudes, not an accurate reflection of a side that sits 13 points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid and had already lost six times this season.

 

 

 

Yet Atletico under Simeone have also become synonymous with upsetting the odds, just as they did when winning the Spanish title in 2014 and then twice reaching the Champions League final.

 

 

 

For all their failings this season, they summoned that spirit here to produce the kind of performance full of tenacity, resilience and guts that was always going to be needed to give them any chance of success.

Simeone sprung a surprise by starting Thomas Lemar for the first time this year while Alvaro Morata and Diego Costa both returned from injury, the former from the start and the latter off the bench in the second half.

 

 

 

– Atletico snapping at heels –

 

 

 

Liverpool, who began with their expected eleven, have blitzed numerous opponents with explosive starts but they were the ones rocking early on as Atletico snapped at their heels, pressed hard and relished being first to every loose ball.

 

 

 

They took the lead, aided by a hint of fortune as Liverpool failed to clear the corner and the ball cannoned back off the foot of Fabinho for Saul to stab in from three yards.

 

 

 

On the sideline, Simeone beckoned his players to stay calm but they were celebrating in the corner while in the stands, the fans were delirious and given hope.

 

 

 

Atletico were given a lead to defend and the rest of the half was largely a picture of Liverpool dominating the ball but failing to break down the 10 red and white shirts in front of them.

 

 

 

Their best chances fell to Mohamed Salah but he passed Jan Oblak’s mishit clearance to the offside Firmino before sidefooting into an open net and then saw a deflected shot fly over.

 

 

 

Oblak’s error came shortly after an equally unusual mistake from Virgil van Dijk, whose poor header might have proved costly, only for Morata to miss the chance from the angle.

 

 

 

Sadio Mane, on a yellow card, was replaced at half-time by Divock Origi while Lemar made way for the more conscientious Marcos Llorente.

 

 

 

Simeone could sense Liverpool’s momentum and he responded by frantically flapping his arms to demand more support.

 

 

 

Salah drifted into space at the back post but headed wide and Atletico came through another spell of pressure unscathed. Morata should even have made it two but slipped when about to pull the trigger on Lodi’s cut-back.

 

 

 

He was taken off with 20 minutes left, along with Salah, and Costa made his return shortly after to a wave of approval from the home support. The roar was even bigger when the final whistle blew.

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