Villaflor: Liverpool’s collapse

Noel Villaflor

FOOTBALL is what it is because of the surprises it pulls off time and again, and while one would have thought that the sport has exhausted its bag of extraordinary scripts, along comes yet another extraordinary story.

Defending champion Liverpool FC has crashed out of the Uefa Champions League in the most unimaginable way possible at the hands of Atletico Madrid in Reds territory.

The Round of 16 match yesterday ended 3-2 in favor of Atletico, which advanced to the Quarterfinal with a 4-2 aggregate, and ending Liverpool’s campaign to defend its title.

Even more astounding than the result is that the match produced four goals in 30 minutes of extra time, three from Diego Simeone’s side.

With the aggregate score tied at 1-1 from a lone Liverpool goal, the match went into extra time with the hosts dominating every facet of the game, from possession to shots on goal.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool threw everything at their opponents, but Atletico’s Slovenian shotstopper Jan Oblak was up to task, even if he let in two goals, one shortly before half-time, and another in the first four minutes of extra time courtesy of Roberto Firminho.

Liverpool seemed on its way to the next round when disaster struck three minutes later: their Spanish goalkeeper Adrian committed a gaffe so costly it silenced Anfield -- a poor clearance that resulted in a game-changing goal from Marcos Llorente.

The aggregate score now stood at 2-2, which meant Atletico was poised to advance on away goals. But Llorente wasn’t done, driving a stake into Liverpool’s heart with another goal in the 105th minute. Alvaro Morata sealed the game for good seconds before match’s end.

At the final whistle, the drone of shellshocked Liverpool fans at Anfield was numbing as Simone rushed to a section of Atletico fans to lead his players in celebration.

I asked days before whether Liverpool had peaked too soon in Europe. Performance-wise, they were excellent. But mentally, the Reds collapsed as a team.

And much of this collapse had to do with Atletico breaking down the Liverpool spirit and destroying its aura of invincibility.

AFC CUP. Two Philippine clubs had contrasting results on match day 3 of the AFC Cup.

Kaya FC Iloilo could only manage a 1-1 draw against stubborn Indonesian side PSM Makassar, which played much of the match with 10 men in Bogor, Indonesia.

Last Tuesday’s result meant Kaya slipped to second spot in Group H with 5 points.

Singapore’s Tampines Rovers tops the group with seven points after edging Myanmar’s Shan United 2-1. PSM is third with 4 points, while Shan has yet to earn a single point.

Ceres Negros FC, on the other hand, showed why they’re the best club in Southeast Asia with a 4-0 drubbing of Bali United last Wednesday behind closed doors at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Ceres leads Group G with seven points, followed by Than Quang Ninh (four points), Svay Rieng (three and Bali (three).