If you’re going to win dirty you might as well do it at the home of Atletico Madrid, the kings of winning dirty. Indeed, Diego Simeone’s side have, over the years, mastered the dark arts to make themselves one of European football’s most intimidating teams. On Tuesday night at the Wanda Metropolitano, though, it was Liverpool who embraced their dark side to claim victory.
Liverpool have played better, much better, this season than they did in their 3-2 win over Atleti. It was, after all, only a few days previously that Jurgen Klopp’s side laid down a marker with a 5-0 demolition of Watford that demonstrated their quality in all areas of the pitch.
However, by winning dirty in the Spanish capital Liverpool showed that they are back to their best. The ability to win in this manner carried Klopp and his players to their first Premier League title in 30 years two seasons ago. While the Reds also produced a number of landmark performances, it was this quality that made them so much better than the rest.
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And it was the loss of this quality that saw Liverpool fall so far off the pace last season, when the Anfield club only just managed to keep their place in the Premier League’s top four. Last season, when the going got tough, the Reds frequently folded, like when they lost an unprecedented six straight home matches earlier this year.

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The summer off-season looks to have rejuvenated Liverpool, though, with Klopp’s team competing on all fronts. Atletico Madrid had only ever lost one Champions League match at the Wanda Metropolitano before Tuesday night. They’d kept 13 clean sheets in 19 games, yet Liverpool scored three goals to snatch all three points.
Rather than wilting in the face of Atleti’s often confrontational challenge, Liverpool embraced all that the Spaniards threw at them. They stood tall when others would have backed down. Some of the refereeing decisions might have gone in the Reds’ favour, but they put themselves in a position to benefit from those decisions.
“A dirty three points are often the most important and that was a dirty three points,” Klopp said afterwards, hailing his side for the way they fought for the win after allowing a 2-0 lead to slip. “It was a tough game. How you win I couldn’t care less. On a night like this getting three points is really massive.”
Even Klopp himself showed an edge to his character as he ended up in a touchline tiff with Simeone who ran down the tunnel before the Liverpool manager could shake his hand at full time. “His reaction, like mine, was not too cool as well, but we are both emotional, so when I see him next time we will shake hands definitely. He was obviously angry, not with me, but with the game, with the world, stuff like this.”
It should have come as no surprise that two teams coached by two managers as outwardly emotional as Klopp and Simeone produced such a spectacle. There was passion on display on the touchline and on the pitch, but it was Liverpool who held it together better of the two sides. The margins were narrow and it was in those margins that the Reds did their best work on Tuesday night.
Liverpool have already done that more than a few times this season. They could have been blown away in matches against Brentford and Manchester City, but backed themselves to respond as the best teams do. Last season pushed Klopp and his players to the brink. This season, they are back to their best and it’s wins like the one over Atletico Madrid that show this.
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