MADRID: A toothless Liverpool failed to get the away goal they craved and fell to a 1-0 defeat against Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final.
Atletico’s potent Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan had a huge slice of luck for his winner in the ninth minute but there was nothing fortunate about his side’s win as Liverpool, missing star striker Fernando Torres, failed to test goalkeeper David de Gea and must now rely on home advantage to turn the tie around in the second leg at Anfield on April 29. In the opening quarter hour Liverpool looked like they were jaded from their 24-hour journey from Liverpool to Madrid although coach Rafa Benitez had insisted it would not affect his troops.
Atletico got the perfect start netting after just nine minutes. Jose Jurado crossed from the by-line and the unmarked Forlan got his header horribly wrong but the ball fell kindly into his path and the Uruguayan scuffed the ball past Pepe Reina. Liverpool thought they had equalised in the 17th minute when a miscued Dirk Kuyt shot turned into a pass for Benayoun who finished coolly but the goal was ruled out for a marginal offside. That summed up the rest of Liverpool’s performance that night.
“It is half-time and the second game is at Anfield so we are hopeful,” said Benitez. “We are disappointed because we conceded a strange goal and we could not score, you always want to score.” Fulham earn draw in Hamburg Fulham will take a slight advantage into next week’s Europa League semi-final second- leg at home to Hamburg having earned a 0-0 draw in the Hanseatic City in Thursday’s first leg.
The hosts laid siege to the Fulham goal, who took a taxing 27-hour road trip to get to the match, in the second-half with three clear chances in three minutes with a quarter of the match left to play, but to no avail. Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and midfielder Jonathan Pitroipa both went close, but Hamburg’s attack was constantly frustrated by Fulham’s Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. In the end, the stats show Hamburg had five clear chances on goals, while Fulham failed to create a single threatening chance and won the corner count 7-1, but the hosts could not make the numerical advantage count.