Atletico Madrid 2 Liverpool 3
It was an old-fashioned bar-room brawl between two of world football’s elite goalscorers in Mohamed Salah and Antoine Griezmann but, by the end of 90 breathless minutes at the Wanda Metropolitano tonight, it was Liverpool who were left standing to maintain their impressive unbeaten start to the season.
After Griezmann had capped his eventful night by being shown a red card, the game was decided on 77 minutes when Mario Hermoso needlessly wrestled Diogo Jota to the ground and Salah calmly blasted in his second goal of the night from the penalty spot.
There was even more drama to follow, just minutes later, when Jota was judged to have fouled Jose Maria Gimenez and conceded a penalty, only for referee Daniel Sebert to overturn his own decision after looking at the pitchside monitor.
Having scored last, Salah had also struck first, with a magnificent surging run into the area and Naby Keita added a second, only for Griezmann to take centre stage himself, with two goals later in the first half.
The Atletico star would not be granted long to try and find his hat-trick goal, however. On 51 minutes, his high boot caught Roberto Firmino firmly in the face and his straight red card condemned his side to 40-plus minutes with 10 men.
His team mate Luis Suarez had been denied a start against his old club — much to the surprise of Jurgen Klopp — but two goals in 14 minutes proved why Diego Simeone had gambled perfectly in selecting the 30-year-old Frenchman.
Both goals featured poor defending from Keita, a pity given the way in which he had struck a sensational second goal for Liverpool after just 13 minutes.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s dangerous ball into the area was headed clear, unconvincingly, by Felipe and Keita sent it flying back towards, and into, the Atletico net with a brilliant first-time half-volley.
That doubled a lead handed to the visitors by Salah, of course, who in the process
became the first player in Liverpool’s history to score in nine consecutive games, although there was a degree of debate over who produced the decisive final touch.
But the build-up to the goal was simply breathtaking as Liverpool’s man of the moment cut in from the right wing, leaving Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Lemar and Koke all in his wake, moving the ball onto his left foot and scoring with a lethal shot that took a deflection, apparently off Geoffrey Kondogbia.
The Liverpool goals were part of a breathtaking opening 20 minutes in which their in-form attacking front three scythed through the home defence with almost laughable ease — Sadio Mane coming within inches of setting up a goal for Firmino in that period.
But Atletico weathered the storm and, on 20 minutes, after Alexander-Arnold had made a brilliant interception to cut out a Carrasco cross, the home side scored from the resulting corner.
Lemar beat Keita far too easily on the byline, pulled the ball back to the edge of the area and Koke’s firm shot was steered expertly into the net from close range by Griezmann, a goal only allowed after a lengthy VAR review for a possible offside.
The crowd, taking their cue from their manager, finally became a factor in proceedings, roaring on their players who flowed forward in irresistible wave after wave.
Alisson made a brilliant block to deny Griezmann an equaliser as the striker raced clear with only the keeper to beat but, on 34 minutes, he had no answer after Atletico prodigy Joao Felix burst past Keita down the left and threaded a pass into the area which was met by Griezmann whose finish was of the
highest grade possible.
The pressure was beginning to mount on Klopp’s side and Alisson survived a scare as he came out of his area, booted a clearance against team mate Joel Matip and produced a ricochet that could have presented Felix with an open goal.
The Brazilian keeper made amends with a fine low save to keep out another Felix effort but the interval could not come quickly enough for Klopp and his team.
The German coach threw on Fabinho at the interval, to attempt to stem the Atletico tide, but an early Mane header, that forced a save out of Jan Oblak, and another fine Alisson stop from Carrasco proved this was still an attack-minded approach from both combatants.
The sending-off of Griezmann certainly focused Liverpool’s attacking intent, with Andy Robertson’s half-volley just clearing the home goal before substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit a firm shot directly at Oblak.
ATLETICO (3-1-4-2): Oblak 6; Felipe 5, Kondogbia 5 (Gimenez 45, 6), Hermoso 5 (Llorente 80); Koke 6; Trippier 7, Lemar 7 (Suarez 80), de Paul 6 (Lodi 80), Carrasco 9; Sequeira 6 (Correa 80), Griezmann 7.
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson 8; Alexander-Arnold 7 (Gomez 85), Matip 5, van Dijk 5, Robertson 6; Milner 6 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 63, 6), Henderson 7, Keita 6 (Fabinho 45, 6); Salah 9 (N Williams 90), Firmino 7, Mane 6 (Jota 62, 6).
Referee: D Siebert (Germany) 7