As featured on NewsNow: Football news

Klopp shock: How a proper coach and proper Atletico team stunned Liverpool

COMMENT: "Proper football". This morning, as he reflects on another giantkilling. Another famous Champions League night for Atletico Madrid. Do you think Diego Simeone is wasting his time worrying about Jurgen Klopp's definition of "proper football"?

Or what about the claims of Klopp's captain Jordan Henderson? That Liverpool "deserved to go through"? The scoresheet would say otherwise. The three goals conceded at home. The failure to find the net in Madrid. At both ends of the pitch, the evidence says something else.

Don't take this away from El Cholo. Don't take it away from his players. Nor this proper, proper football club. This was another magical night for Atletico. Another master coaching performance from Simeone - both in terms of tactics and sheer motivation. Klopp can moan about his "proper football" - but the great man-manager met his match on Wednesday evening. Klopp's players may be willing to run through brick walls for him, but Simeone's will do the same - and with those walls ablaze.

This was a night for sheer will. For character. For never giving up. It wasn't about outplaying the opposition, it was about outlasting them. Which by taking this marathon tie into extra time Atletico did.

The inspiration came from the bench. Marcos Llorente. On for an ineffective and stroppy Diego Costa, he finished the best night of his career with two goals and an assist. A player who defied Zinedine Zidane, walking out on Real Madrid with a determination to prove his old coach wrong. At Valdebebas, despite the family ties, Llorente's face just didn't fit. The big names, on big money, always preferred by Zidane in his midfield. Now with Atletico, Llorente has embraced the indio culture driven through by Simeone. The midfielder's instant reaction a tribute to his coach's influence more than anything else...

"We don't know where our ceiling is to endure, to suffer ... as we have done today," Llorente, heart racing, declared while still on the pitch. "We have defended everyone to the death. When the whole team gets involved these things happen."

Llorente's first reaction wasn't about his goals. His Real redemption. The night was bigger than that... Character. Sacrifice. Unity. The traits drummed into Simeone's teams these past nine years. Player after player. Cycle upon cycle. Atletico reflect the manager's drive like no other - and it lifts those whom buy into it to new heights.

That assist Llorente laid on in the dying embers of this classic was for Alvaro Morata. The Chelsea flop driving home their third - and fourth for this tie. And again, his reaction as the ball hit the back of the net spoke volumes of the culture inside this Atleti dressing room.

There was no wild arm waving. No freeze-frame posing. Instead, in front of the away support, Morata dropped to his knees and begged for forgiveness...

"He was injured, but he pushed on," Morata's father Alfonso would say later in the evening. "I don't know why he was asking for forgiveness. He called me and he was hoarse: 'We did it!!'.

"There in England he has many enemies. But Atleti were brave. All for one and altogether."

And it's since emerged the reasons for Morata's gestures. Why? Because of the hatful of goalscoring chances he'd missed in the lead up to last night. It had been front of mind. Weighing on him. This wasn't about his record. His drought. It was about letting down those who support him. And instead of throwing the criticism back in their faces - he asked for their forgiveness.

Again Simeone's influence laid bare. The support comes first. No matter the ability. The price-tag. The very least expected from an Atleti player under the Argentine is to give his all for the fans. Those 2900-odd behind Adrian's goal weren't the 'effing idiots' as Klopp barked before kickoff. Simeone's players swamped the kneeling Morata before trying to break the stewards' cordon to reach those who had followed them from Madrid. No time for elbow bumps here. The contrast couldn't have been greater.

Morata had his Chelsea. Llorente his Zidane. And Simeone...? Well, he's long accepted that's his lot. He's never going to win over everyone. But who cares? The proper, proper coach of this proper, proper football club just dumped the title holders out at the round of 16.

"How do my teams play?" Simeone would later reflect in the aftermath. "To win... with all our soul."

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

Have your say
×

Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

  1. Go Ad-Free
  2. Faster site experience
  3. Support great writing
  4. Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free
×

Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free