Liverpool: Reds Defeated In Audi Cup Final On Penalties
A much-changed Liverpool hold Atletico Madrid to a 1-1 draw before losing the shootout...
Liverpool have finished runners-up in the Audi Cup after opponents Atletico Madrid successfully dispatched all five of their spot kicks in a penalty shootout at the Allianz Arena in Munich.
Kop boss Jürgen Klopp unsurprisingly made nine changes from the side that impressed against Bayern Munich just 24 hours prior, with only Emre Can and Sadio Mané retained in a largely experimental line-up.
Perhaps partly as a result, the tempo was noticeably slower than on Tuesday night when Liverpool exposed the tournament's hosts to devastating affect on the counter.
Much of that also owed to Atletico's more circumspect approach, although neither side helped a somewhat mediocre spectacle with a string of wayward passes and sloppy errors.
Few chances arose during the opening stages but those that did fell primarily to the Reds with Dominic Solanke glancing wide and Ben Woodburn miscuing acrobatically from a tight angle.
The only other moment of note saw Mané collect a yellow card for nonchalantly, but needlessly, raising his hand to the face of the omnipresent Lucas Hernández.
Atletico began to get some joy down Liverpool's left as the half progressed and they took the lead via that route in the 33rd minute.
The previously unworked Danny Ward can count himself incredibly unlucky to have conceded however after miraculously tipping Ángel Correa's point-blank effort onto the crossbar only to see Algerian youngster Keidi Bare nod home the rebound.
Other than a couple of promising thrusts forward from Mané, Liverpool failed to threaten an equaliser before the break.
Ward, Flanagan (Matip 45'), Gomez (Alexander-Arnold 74'), Klavan, Milner (Robertson 45'), Can (Henderson 45'), Wijnaldum (Ejaria 64'), Lallana (Grujić 45'), Woodburn (Firmino 45'), Mané (Kent 45'), Solanke (Origi 64')
Goals: Bare 33', Firmino 83'
Successful penalties: Firmino, Kent, Origi, Grujić
Missed penalties: Henderson
Six substitutions were made by Klopp at the interval, including the introductions of club captain Jordan Henderson and key forward Roberto Firmino, but the match remained largely devoid of sustained quality and clear-cut opportunities.
Bar a dangerous cross from new left-back Andy Robertson, which Hernández almost sliced into his own net, Liverpool continued to lack incisiveness in the final third despite increasingly bossing the possession.
Atletico, with a couple of their main men, including Antoine Griezmann, now on the field, also continued to threaten sparingly; Diego Simeone's side seemingly content to protect their slender advantage.
Marko Grujić had a brief sight of goal with 15 minutes remaining, following a neat flick from Firmino, but the usually technically-assured Serbian fired wildly over.
Divock Origi, struggling with a hamstring issue sustained in the warm-up ahead of the win over Hertha Berlin on Saturday, had made a surprise entry into proceedings by this point and he was to have a big impact in the closing stages.
Shortly after firing wide from the edge of the area, the Belgium international won a soft 83rd minute penalty against Gabi that was duly converted by Firmino to bring the scores level.
First Hernández and then former Manchester City defender Stefan Savić went close to winning it for the Spaniards in the final minutes of normal time but ultimately a penalty shootout would be required to determine the victors.
Sadly for Liverpool, Henderson would prove to be the one fall guy as Atletico successfully dispatched all five of their spot-kicks to claim the title.
Analysing events at his post-match press conference, a content Klopp remarked: "If you get to a penalty shootout you want to win it, but that's not the important situation that we have today.
"The boys played really well, they were very good in their preparations and you couldn't have had a more difficult job than we did today against a team like Atletico, who get results, results, results.
"We had a lot of substitutions and were a bit tired from all the training, so it can't be easy. If you can do it better then great. In the first half, we had a few nice moments where we had some good crosses.
"It was really tight, but when we conceded we didn't think straight away and the formation wasn't 100 per cent. One lost challenge with a header shouldn't mean you go behind.
"In the second half, we played much better but the situation continued to be very difficult. We lost the penalty shootout, but I am not absolutely down and out about it."
Liverpool finish their pre-season schedule against Athletic Bilbao in Dublin on Saturday.
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