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Atletico Madrid side won against Liverpool because they got lucky

IAN LADYMAN: Hailing Diego Simeone as a genius is ridiculous – his Atletico Madrid side won against Liverpool because they got lucky

  • Diego Simeone shouldn’t be widely praised for Atletico Madrid’s win v Liverpool
  • Atletico were lucky to knock Jurgen Klopp’s team out of Champions League 
  • Simeone has achieved great things in Spain but this was not an iconic display 
  • There was nothing wrong with his tactics but Atletico relied heavily on Jan Oblak 

Louis van Gaal did not get much right at Manchester United but one of the things he said after he left struck a chord.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: ‘The media do not analyse the game. They analyse the result.’

Had Van Gaal’s football at United been as sharp as this observation then he may have been in business. Nevertheless, there is some truth in what he said. Too many opinions in football are framed by the outcome of a single game and it is not just the media that does it.

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone can’t be called a genius for the win against Liverpool

This brings us to Liverpool’s Champions League exit at the hands of Atletico Madrid.

The Spanish team did not attempt to engage with their opponents at Anfield, sitting deep in an attempt to smother Liverpool’s attacks. An entirely valid tactic, it nevertheless didn’t work.

Liverpool had 34 shots on goal — that’s about one every three minutes. Eleven of those required saves from the Atletico goalkeeper — the best player on the field — while another struck the crossbar from six yards.

So the plan hatched by Atletico coach Diego Simeone did not click. Not a bit of it. If it had, he would not have needed his goalkeeper and Liverpool’s strangely erratic finishing to bail his team out so regularly.

Simeone has achieved marvellous things at Atletico but his side were fortunate to go through

Simeone has achieved marvellous things at Atletico but his side were fortunate to go through

Atletico were heavily reliant upon impressive goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who made eleven saves

Atletico were heavily reliant upon impressive goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who made eleven saves

But somehow Atletico won and —as Van Gaal suggested — much of what has subsequently been said and written has been dictated by that one very simple fact.

Atletico prevailed so their coach’s defensive masterclass had proved his brilliance. Except it didn’t, not really. 

Other things simply came into play as is often the case in sport. If everyone always got what they deserved in football, we could all just stop watching and turn to something that wasn’t sport at all. Like Formula One, for example.

Simeone has achieved some marvellous things during his time in Spain. He can certainly coach and players work hard for him.

But Simeone and his team won at Anfield because they got lucky. It wasn’t just a poor clearance by Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian that cost his team so dearly but the slight slip of his right foot that prevented him pushing off to deal with the shot that followed.

Atletico's win was the story of a team that came with a plan that failed but they still prevailed

Atletico’s win was the story of a team that came with a plan that failed but they still prevailed

Some will view this column as begrudging of Simeone’s win and they would be wrong. Atletico won the game fairly. But I do take issue with subsequent portrayals of a genius at work simply because that is ridiculous. 

Had Liverpool taken a decent portion of their chances they would have won 4-0 and Simeone would have been facing questions about his approach to the contest.

There was nothing wrong with the Argentinian’s tactics. There is a lot of snobbish nonsense spoken about defensive coaches. Playing that way is not easy.

However, the fact remains there was no cerebral higher power at play on this occasion. This was not a night to compare with Inter Milan’s 10-man backs to the wall effort against Barcelona under Jose Mourinho in the 2010 Champions League semi-final second leg or even Nottingham Forest’s 1-0 win over Hamburg in the 1980 final.

No, this was not that at all. This was the story of a team that came with a plan that failed but happened to win anyway. It happens. It’s sport and that’s one of the reasons we love it.

Simeone’s numbers came up for him last Wednesday. Pure and simple. That is where the analysis — on this occasion — should begin and end.

Radio commentator Alan Green has been told by the BBC he is no longer required and understandably is not happy.

In The Times interview, meanwhile, he touched on what feels like a snub by his erstwhile colleague Mike Ingham in a recent autobiography. The only Alan Green mentioned over the 200 pages penned by the BBC’s former football correspondent is a centre forward who played for Coventry in the 1970s.

Radio commentator Alan Green is unhappy after the BBC told him he is no longer required

Radio commentator Alan Green is unhappy after the BBC told him he is no longer required

Whether that was deliberate or not, only Ingham will know, but the fact Green did occasionally rub some of his colleagues up the wrong way should surprise nobody who ever listened to him commentate.

That he is so forthright, irascible and trenchant is what made him such a brilliant listen over four decades.

A personal view is that Green was always worth paying attention to and I do fear the BBC may be making yet another horrid mistake. 

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