Saul Niguez: Clipping Liverpool's wings the key to our win
Match-winner Saul Niguez said Atletico Madrid have answered their critics with a 1-0 Champions League last-16, first-leg win at the Wanda Metropolitano yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Atletico and their previously untouchable coach Diego Simeone have come in for criticism this season, with Los Rojiblancos only the third-best Madrid team in La Liga after a wretched run of form.
Before the game, they had won just one of their last seven matches in all competitions.
Spanish daily Marca quoted Saul, who had not scored or assisted in his last nine matches, as saying: "We did a great job, we were very good defensively.
"We were united because they have very dangerous players like (Sadio) Mane and (Mohamed) Salah. Being secure on the wings was key to them not progressing.
"There are lots of people that want to kill us and criticise us... I was really up for it."
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp accused Atletico of unfairly targeting Mane. He replaced the Senegalese at the break, with Atletico players loudly appealing for the attacker to be sent off for a second clash with Sime Vrsaljko, after being booked for an earlier incident with the Croat.
Said Klopp: "The plan today was to get Sadio out of the game with a yellow card, I was a bit afraid that his opponent would go down if Sadio only takes a deep breath or whatever.
"I didn't want to have that situation and that's why I took him off. He was targeted.
"It was clear. It's part of football but I don't like it."
With his opposite number Simeone firing up the home crowd, Klopp warned that his team's own cauldron Anfield - where Liverpool have not lost in the English Premier League since 2017 and in Europe since 2014 - awaits.
Said the German: "Our people will be ready. Welcome to Anfield. It's not over yet."
Former Liverpool and England fullback Stephen Warnock agreed, writing in his BBC column that there are many reasons why he thinks the return leg on March 11 will be different.
He added: "The Anfield atmosphere is one of them. Barcelona said last year that it would not bother them, but look what happened to them."
However, former Champions League and World Cup winner Marcel Desailly warned on beIN Sports: "You cannot count on your stadium and your ability at home every time to make a difference. It is Champions League...
"Going forward, you also open up to Atletico, who will potentially have the opportunity to score."