Liverpool 2-1 (2-2 agg) Atletico Madrid: Forlan Sends Atleti Through

Diego Forlan returned to England tonight to deliver the killing blow to Liverpool's European hopes.
Liverpool 2-1 (2-2 agg) Atletico Madrid - Lineups & Stats
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Liverpool went crashing out of Europe tonight as a late goal from Diego Forlan saw Atletico Madrid progress to the final stage of the Europa League.

It truly was a flood of red in the first five minutes of the half, as the hosts bombarded the Atletico goal with a flurry of chances. Yossi Benayoun was the first to go close as he went free after a through ball from Kuyt, but the Israeli's attempt to beat a capable David De Gea at his front post was thwarted.

Finding it difficult to inject any measure of authority into the game, having no joy centrally or on either flank, Atletico were on the back foot for the entirety of the early exchanges.

Having finally broken in his Liverpool shoes, Alberto Aquilani showed his intent early in the game too, striking on target from 20 yards. Again though, De Gea's firm grasp made sure the scoreline remained 0-0.

Warming up at last, the Madrid side had their first sniff at goal after a lovely long-ball from Valera found its way into the path of Diego Forlan after a nudge in the right direction from the head of Sergio Aguero. However, the imposing figure of Jamie Carragher was enough to keep the Uruguayan's run in check.

This seemed to spark some life into the visitors, as Raul Garcia's venomous shot from range looked destined for the net before being expertly parried by Pepe Reina, and Forlan began taking on defenders, albeit with little to show for his efforts.

Patrolling his flank well, Atleti captain Antonio Lopez leaped forward to help out a struggling Simao on the left. Winning a free kick for his side, the defender returned to his post at left back as he watched the winger fruitlessly deliver the set piece.

With Liverpool's chances on goal beginning to dry up, Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel began to drop deeper and alternate roles as they looked to help the play on its way.

The bold moves made by the forwards began to pay off, as some beautiful one-touch football ended after a glorious cross from Javier Mascherano found Kuyt on the 6-yard-line, although the Dutchman inexplicably managed to knock it over the bar from a position right in front of an empty net.

Thinking he had made up for Kuyt's mistakes, Daniel Agger scored with a powerful header after the half-hour mark, but the Dane's goal was adjuged to be offside and the deadlock remained unbroken.

As he so often does, Steven Gerrard took matters into his own hands as the first half began to wind down, striking at goal twice within a matter of minutes. However, the captain's attempts were culled by the hands of De Gea and a wicked deflection from the back of Benayoun.

Aguero thought he had capitalized on some uncharacteristic play from Gerrard soon after as the Liverpool skipper lost the ball in his own half. Dragging down the Argentine to regain possession, the red number 8 found himself in the book.

Two minutes from the break, Anfield erupted. Scoring his second goal for Liverpool, Aquilani found himself in the right place at the right time after Benayoun lost his marker well enough on the right flank to deliver a beautiful cross into the box. Rattling it first time, the Italian found the bottom right hand corner of De Gea's net before the young 'keeper could react.

A Swing And A Miss | Kuyt knows he should have scored...

As the teams poured out, both eager to get the second half started for the exact same reason, the sides were perhaps a little too heated in their attempts to take the next 45 minutes by the scruff of the neck. Paulo Assuncao managed to get his name in the book after scything Gerrard to the ground, joined by Aquilani who was shown yellow for shirt pulling.

Dancing off three or four challenges by the Liverpool defence, Jose Antonio Reyes held the ball well before teeing up an onrushing Simao. A poor shot by the winger sailed high over the bar, leaving some lucky fan with a souvenir.

Continuing as he started, the heavily influential Aquilani almost turned provider as he slid the ball to Kuyt with the Dutchman running into plenty of space. Too hasty in his decision making, the forward shot at goal himself, prompting an easy save from De Gea and a few choice words from a looming Benayoun.

A decent ball was swung into the box after some nice play between Simao and Lopez, but the forwards just couldn't rise high enough to connect. Reyes quickly took charge of the ball, letting rip from the edge of the area, but the ball came off the back of Gerrard and rebounded out to safety.

For all the failed attempts, there was definitely a sense of urgency about the visitors now, but their frustration at failing to find a way through was summed up when Raul Garcia drilled one in from outside the box that was always too high to trouble Reina.

Then, having his name mentioned for possibly the first time since the first five minutes of the game, Glen Johnson picked up the ball on the left before cutting inside and striking straight at goal. Covering it the entire time, De Gea saw the ball went over the bar before the ref blew the whistle to mark the end of 90 minutes and the beginning of extra time.

Israeli Magic | Benayoun sends it home...

Before five minutes of extra time had room to pass, the second goal of the game was scored. After a scrap inside Atletico's box, the ball fell to the feet of Lucas Lieva, who dinked the ball over a sea of Spanish faces to find Yossi Benayoun creeping at the back post.

Still with work to do, the Israel captain found the space to shot from an acute angle, seeing his shot finally rest in the side of the net after a fingertip touch from David De Gea.

A powerful strike from Forlan looked like it might trouble Reina, as the shot pounded back out off the 'keeper's chest. Struggling to clear the rebound, the Reds had to endure a flurry of attempts before the ball went back out to safety.

Jose Manuel Jurado almost got himself the title of supersub as he belted a shot towards goal, shaving the side of the upright as it sailed out to safety.

Feeling that they had done everything they needed to go through, the hosts were soon in for a shock. On the right flank, Reyes got goalside of Glen Johnson before squaring the ball wonderfully for Forlan. With nothing left to do but knock the ball in the right direction, the Uruguayan's boot saw the travelling fans erupt in celebration as the net shook.

On a slightly sour note, the first half of extra time ended after a fracas in the Atletico box involving Dirk Kuyt and a selection of travelling defenders. Despite not being originally involved in the ruckus, Lopez's handling of speaking to the referee afterward earned him a place in the book.

Never Stopping | Benayoun fought til the end...

Looking weary, both sides struggled to do anything with the ball after the third restart. Sloppy passes and tired legs seemed to be the order of the last 15 minutes as both teams were holding on for different reasons.

A long ball played down to Kuyt prompted the home fans to erupt with rage after the Dutchman seemed to be pulled down in the box by Alvaro Dominguez. The referee had other ideas though, as he waved for the Netherlands international to get up.

Starting to put together some neat play on the right flank, Liverpool subs Nabil El Zhar and Phillip Degen were causing problems, but the imposing figure of Atleti skipper Lopez continued to make it difficult for the Reds to find a way through.

Allowed one last sniff at goal, Dirk Kuyt bounded towards the net but lost his footing at the last, much to the relief of Quique Sanchez Flores in the visitor's technical area. Blowing his whistle soon after, the referee saw an even bigger sigh of elation from the Spanish coach as he knew what lies ahead.

With the score tied at an aggregate 2-2, Atletico Madrid progress to meet Fulham in the Europa League final courtesy of the away goals rule. And with that, Liverpool's dreams of another European final have been dashed, while Rafa Benitez's job hangs further in the balance.

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