Atalanta beats Liverpool 2-0, bolsters Champions League hopes

Atalanta, which had been mauled 5-0 by Liverpool in Italy, took full advantage, punishing the host's sloppiness with two goals in four minutes after the break.

Atalanta celebrate against Liverpool   -  AFP

Atalanta's Josip Ilicic and Robin Gosens scored quickfire second-half goals to give it a comfortable 2-0 win over a toothless Liverpool, which barely managed a shot on target, in their Champions League Group D clash at Anfield on Wednesday.

Having recently complained about fixture congestion and its effect on his injury-hit squad, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp made several changes but the result was a flat performance as the home side struggled to get out of second gear.

Atalanta, which had been mauled 5-0 by Liverpool in Italy, took full advantage, punishing the host's sloppiness with two goals in four minutes after the break.

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Though Liverpool still leads the group on nine points, both Atalanta and Ajax Amsterdam, which beat bottom side Midtjylland 3-1, are now two points behind with two games left to play.

“My only interest at the moment is that we got the thumbs-up, nobody injured, recover immediately ... the boys are completely disappointed, frustrated, but really, we don't have time for it, to be honest, just get fresh legs as quick as possible and go again,” Klopp told BT Sport.

The German welcomed back Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah, who had missed the side's Premier League win over Leicester City after testing positive for COVID-19 while on international duty but also fielded three teenagers in a much-changed side.

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Rhys Williams and Neco Williams were deployed in defence with fellow 19-year-old Curtis Jones just in front of them, and Atalanta exploited their lack of experience early on to create several half-chances in the opening 45 minutes.

Atalanta was far better in defence than it had been when Liverpool took it apart in its previous Champions League outing.

The host, meanwhile, struggled to get the ball up to its attacking trio of Salah, Sadio Mane and Divock Origi, and it took until the 44th minute for Salah to threaten with a shot that flew just wide.

Klopp looked set to reshuffle his pack on the hour mark by bringing on Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Diogo Jota and Andy Robertson, but his side went behind before he could make the switches as Ilicic scored with a deft volley from an inswinging cross from Alejandro Gomez.

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Liverpool made its changes, but it was soon two goals down as Gosens was left unmarked to volley home Hans Hateboer's knockdown from close range in the 63rd minute.

With its attack still misfiring, Liverpool could not rebound though as Atalanta became the first Italian side to win at Anfield since Udinese in the Europa League in October 2012.

“We had a great game tonight, we managed to play our football,” Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini told Italian TV. “We played better this time, and we played quality football as well as being solid throughout.”

Ajax stays second in Champions League group

Ajax Amsterdam spurned a series of chances in the first half but scored quickly at the start of the second to beat Midtjylland of Denmark 3-1 on Wednesday and stay in second place in Champions League Group D.

Ryan Gravenberch struck a stunning long-range shot on target straight after the resumption to break the deadlock and Noussair Mazraoui added a second within 120 seconds to ensure the Dutch club moved up to seven points from its four matches in the group.

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