HomeNFLLiverpool 0-3 Atalanta: Gianluca Scamacca double helps Italians stun Anfield as Reds...

Liverpool 0-3 Atalanta: Gianluca Scamacca double helps Italians stun Anfield as Reds implode in Europa League tie

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Much-changed Liverpool were stunned by Serie A’s sixth-placed side Atalanta at Anfield, as the Italians cruised to a 3-0 first-leg lead in their Europa League quarter-final tie.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were indebted to their goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher in the first half for a string of superb stops, including one with his face, but he could do nothing about the onslaught that followed.

Mario Pasalic had a glorious opportunity to stun The Kop in the third minute as he drew a wonderful, sprawling save from Kelleher, before the floodgates opened in the 38th minute.

Gianluca Scamacca peeled off Ibrahima Konate and Virgil van Dijk centrally, applying a cool first-time finish to Davide Zappacosta’s low cross. “We were wide open,” said Van Dijk after the final whistle. A frank admission.

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Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah appears dejected after Atalanta’s Gianluca Scamacca scores his second goal at Anfield

Liverpool’s lacklustre defence again went missing as Scamacca scored his second on the hour mark – after Klopp had introduced Mo Salah, Dominik Szoboszlai and Andy Robertson from the bench – side-footing Charles De Ketelaere’s delivery beyond Kelleher.

The collapse was complete in the 84th minute when Szoboszlai lost the ball softly in midfield, freeing Ederson, before Pasalic atoned for his earlier miss by tapping into an empty net from Kelleher’s poor parry.

Liverpool were beaten 3-0 at home to Atalanta
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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said his side were ‘really bad’

Furious Klopp bellowed and waved his arms as he called on fans to lift the flat Anfield atmosphere, but this was Atalanta’s night – the Reds’ hopes of making May’s Dublin showpiece are now in serious jeopardy.

“Nothing positive to say about the game,” said Klopp. “They [Atalanta] 100 per cent deserved it. It was a really bad game. I didn’t like our tactical discipline. We were everywhere. No counter press. I know the boys can play better football, but not tonight.”

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Liverpool team news

Liverpool made six changes from Sunday’s enthralling 2-2 draw at Man United.

Joe Gomez, Ibrahima Konate and Konstantinos Tsimikas were the three defensive swaps, while Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Cody Gakpo came into the forward line.

Mo Salah and Luis Diaz were among those who dropped down to the bench, joined by the returning Diogo Jota and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

How Atalanta left Liverpool’s EL hopes in tatters

Atalanta's Gianluca Scamacca (right) celebrates with Matteo Ruggeri after putting the Italian side ahead against Liverpool
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Scamacca (right) scored a goal either side of the break for Atalanta

The warning signs had been there from the start.

Harvey Elliott appeared to be fouled but Atalanta were allowed to continue, the ball eventually falling for Pasalic to strike from six yards, with Kelleher saving via his face inside three minutes.

Elliott’s effort from wide right of the box, shortly after, clipped the underside of the crossbar as well as hitting the far post, and that was as good as it got for Liverpool, who endured a humbling evening.

Player ratings

Liverpool: Kelleher (7), Gomez (5), Van Dijk (5), Konate (5), Tsimikas (4), Jones (6), Endo (6), Mac Allister (6), Elliott (6), Nunez (5), Gakpo (6).

Subs: Szoboszlai (5), Salah (6), Robertson (6), Diaz (6), Jota (6).

Atalanta: Musso (7), Hien (6), Djimsiti (6), De Roon (6), Ruggeri (7), Ederson (7), Pasalic (8), Zappacosta (8), Koopmeiners (7), De Ketelaere (7), Scamacca (9).

Subs: Miranchuk (n/a).

Player of the match: Gianluca Scamacca

Zappacosta, the marauding former Chelsea defender, sent in a low cross for Scamacca to hit a first-time shot that squirmed past Kelleher – Atalanta’s first assault of a tactically impressive display.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s side kept up the pressure after the break, as Liverpool got less and less convincing, Klopp’s substitutes making them worse, not better.

An all too simple pass down the right to De Ketelaere caught the hosts napping, with Konate and Joe Gomez at fault for leaving Scamacca free to score with a measured finish.

Liverpool looked lost as they tried to pull one back, with their celebrations at reducing the deficit in the 79th minute short-lived as Salah strayed offside from Robertson’s pass.

Just four minutes later the mood darkened further as Szoboszlai’s mistake allowed Atalanta to break and nick a potentially tie-ending third.

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Klopp: I’m responsible – but I don’t regret changes

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Klopp took responsibility for Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat to Atalanta

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: “We played a bad game. We deserved to lose. We must feel that now. But the boys have only this night to feel bad about it, then we have to build up again.

“Really well done Atalanta, that’s it. They are causing many teams problems. Man-marking is uncomfortable when you are not on top of your game. They defended us. We suffered from their way.

“When you lose a game then your changes are questionable, I get that 100 per cent. I would do it the exact same way again. We have to make changes if we want to be good for the rest of the season.

“I am responsible for this result, I know that. But the decisions I would probably take again.”

Atalanta sit sixth in Serie A, 32 points behind league leaders Inter Milan
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Atalanta sit sixth in Serie A, 32 points behind league leaders Inter Milan

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Verdict: Disjointed Liverpool declining at a key time?

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Anton Toloui reacts to Liverpool’s 3-0 first-leg Europa League quarter-final defeat to Atalanta

What’s next?

Liverpool host Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 1pm, kick-off 2pm. They then travel to Italy for the second leg of the quarter-final next Thursday, kick-off 8pm.

Atalanta will have more than 24 hours less rest ahead of the return leg, with a Serie A home game against Verona on Monday to contend with first, kick-off 7.45pm.

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