Thomas Partey put in a five-star performance as Atletico Madrid claimed a 1-0 win over Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 at the Wanda Metropolitano on Tuesday evening.
Prior to the clash, the 26-year-old had said that Los Rojiblancos were used to coping with difficult situations.
They certainly did here, holding their nerve till the final whistle after Saul Niguez’s fourth-minute strike.
Partey featured for the whole 90 minutes and gave a good account of himself by preventing Liverpool from finding the spaces they would usually penetrate to create goal-scoring opportunities.
The Ghana international was good on the ball, having 53 touches, 26 accurate passes (72.2 per cent), two key passes and three successful long balls from seven.
Offense wise, he had three total shots and two successful dribbles from two attempts.
On the defensive side, the Atleti academy graduate won seven of 10 ground duels, three of three aerial duels and also made one interception and five tackles.
Saul Niguez raised the roof at a bouncing Wanda Metropolitano by scoring in the fourth minute before Atletico’s defence kicked in, suffocating the European champions and denying them a single shot on target.
“Tonight is one of those nights you don’t forget,” said Simeone. “We haven’t gone through but we have beaten the best team in the world.”
If Alvaro Morata had not slipped at the crucial moment, Atleti might even have taken a two-goal lead to Anfield, where they can expect an onslaught next month.
“We are not 5-0 down,” said Jurgen Klopp. “We don’t think it will be easy but as long as we can get 11 players in Liverpool shirts we will give everything we have. And for all the Liverpool fans that can get a ticket – welcome to Anfield.”
If Liverpool remain favourites to go through, the roar from the Atleti fans at the final whistle, aimed at their fist-pumping players on the pitch, suggested Simeone’s team now have belief.
Few had tipped them to keep this tie even alive for the second leg given their own stuttering form, in contrast to Liverpool, unbeaten in the Premier League, and gunning for a treble.
The return leg takes place at Anfield on March 11.
Atletico will now turn their attention to La Liga where they host Villarreal on Sunday. – Super Sports/Goal.com