March 12, 2020 / 12:25 AM / 20 days ago

Atletico defended until the death - Llorente

LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid’s unlikely hero Marcos Llorente praised his side’s capacity to dig deep after beating Champions League holders Liverpool 3-2 after extra-time on Wednesday to reach the quarter-finals.

Soccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 Second Leg - Liverpool v Atletico Madrid - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - March 11, 2020 Atletico Madrid's Marcos Llorente celebrates scoring their second goal with Alvaro Morata REUTERS/Phil Noble

Diego Simeone’s side were outplayed for large parts of the match and looked destined to be overwhelmed by Liverpool when Roberto Firmino scored early in extra-time to give his side a 2-1 lead on aggregate after Georginio Wijnaldum’s opener.

But Llorente, the great nephew of six-times European Cup winner Paco Gento, hauled Atletico back into the tie with two strikes from outside the box to stun Anfield.

“We don’t know where our limit is when it comes to hanging in there and suffering, just like we did today. We all defended until the death and when a team all digs in like this, things like this happen,” Llortente told reporters.

Primarily known for his defensive qualities, Llorente had only scored three goals in his career when he came off the bench to replace Diego Costa early in the second half but beat his fellow countryman Adrian with two low finishes.

“Scoring the goal that sent us through is a feeling that cannot be described,” he added.

Alvaro Morata sealed the 4-2 aggregate win at the end of extra-time which made Atletico the first team to beat Liverpool at Anfield in European competition since city rivals Real Madrid — Llorente’s former club — defeated them 3-0 in 2014.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone celebrated Llorente’s second goal and Morata’s match winner by racing down the touchline towards his side’s visiting supporters and he called the win one of the club’s most significant ever.

“This was a game to go down in history, against an extraordinary rival, one of the best we have faced in my eight years here, with a huge intensity and in a spectacular stadium,” Simeone said.

“They pushed us all the way but we clung on and never abandoned the plan we had and with the efforts of the whole team we pulled it off.”

The Argentine also gave a special mention to his goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who kept the Spanish side in the game with nine saves throughout the 120 minutes. For Simeone, the Slovenian is as talismanic as Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

“I have no doubt that Oblak is the best goalkeeper in the world. Just as Messi decides games in attack, Oblak decides them in goal,” he said.

“But the team makes him more powerful, and today they put in a huge performance which Atletico fans will never forget.”

Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond

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