Andy Robertson admits Liverpool will have to be more alert to Atletico Madrid’s spoiling tactics when the sides meet again next month.
The Reds will need to overturn a 1-0 aggregate deficit at Anfield after a frustrating first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
The holders were stung by a fourth-minute goal from Saul Niguez and – despite dominating possession – were unable to respond as the Spanish side got players behind the ball and sat back.
These defensive tactics were stifling for both Liverpool and the contest as a spectacle but the visitors’ real irritation came from Atletico’s apparent gamesmanship.
The hosts appeared to run through a whole range of time-wasting tricks from delaying throw-ins to prolonged injury stoppages while also making the most of any contact to win free-kicks.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp even said he withdrew striker Sadio Mane at half-time because he feared Atletico’s histrionics could earn him a second yellow card from referee Szymon Marciniak.
Left-back Robertson said: “We knew what we were coming up against. We’ve played Spanish teams before. It’s the way they play and they were really good at it.
“We can’t change it now but I don’t think he’s the referee at Anfield, so that’s one positive.
“We need to be a bit more savvy next time and hopefully the referee can see through it as well. Then hopefully the Anfield noise can get behind us and guide us to victory.”
Liverpool now want their fans to emulate their Atletico counterparts and create a ferocious atmosphere in the second leg.
Anfield has played host to many glorious European nights, the greatest of which arguably came in last year’s semi-finals as the Merseysiders memorably turned a 3-0 first-leg loss to Barcelona into a 4-3 aggregate win.
With fans currently in buoyant mood as Liverpool power towards the Premier League title, there seems little doubt there will be a vibrant atmosphere, but Robertson admits the players must do their part.
The Scot said: “Anfield is big and amazing for us but we can’t take it for granted. I know the fans won’t take it for granted either that it will just be another special night. We need to make it a special Anfield night.
“It’s up to the fans and players to come together and hopefully we can do that.”
In acknowledgement of the difficulty Liverpool had in breaking Atleti down, Robertson added: “We probably need the fans more than ever – louder than Barcelona, louder than Roma.
“If we can create that kind of atmosphere, that might give the lads the extra boost we need.
“For a Champions League night at Anfield, the lads would always be up for it – but it always helps when fans are loud.
🔴⚪️ Atlético coach Diego Simeone: "In the 8 years I've been here, I’ve not seen the crowd like that for the whole game. It was really emotional."#UCLpic.twitter.com/69P4vWZErd— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 18, 2020
“I think their fans had an effect on some decisions, so who says our fans can’t do the same?”
The final whistle sparked jubilant Atletico celebrations that included a lap of honour.
Some thought that seemed premature, but Robertson felt they owed that to their fans.
He said: “Maybe they appreciate the fans more than the result, because the fans were top for them.
“Fair play, they’ve won the game, but they’ve not won the tie yet.”
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