Liverpool eliminated as Atalanta book Europa League semi-final place

AFP

Atalanta progressed to the Europa League semi-finals despite losing 1-0 to Liverpool on Thursday as they triumphed 3-1 on aggregate to move one step closer to a first ever European final for the Serie A side.

Atalanta had stunned the Premier League club 3-0 in the first leg of their quarter-final last week at Anfield, levelling another huge blow to Liverpool's dreams of a fairytale ending in manager Juergen Klopp's final season.

"We gave ourselves a massive hurdle (in the first leg), but I liked the game a lot for a long time, the commitment, the desire, the power the boys showed was incredible," Klopp told TNT Sports.

"It is mixed emotions. We would have wished that we could have gone to Dublin (for the final), but that hasn't happened.

"We now have one competition left (Premier League) and we will throw ourselves into that completely."

Liverpool got off to a quick start in Italy as talisman Mohammed Salah scored from the penalty spot in the seventh minute, fuelling hope that a remarkable comeback was in the making.

But while Klopp's men looked little like the shaky side who were steamrolled by Atalanta at Anfield, particularly in the first half, Gian Piero Gasperini's team held on in what the manager had called the biggest game in the team's history to earn a semi-final place against Olympique de Marseille.

"If you don't win without danger, there's no glory to your triumph," Gasperini said.

"The fans always ask us for the shirt to be soaked in sweat, and that's one thing we must have at a minimum."

Salah had Liverpool's best chance at a second goal when he was sent in one-on-one against goalkeeper Juan Musso, but he chipped the ball well wide.

Later in the first half, Salah almost set up Luis Diaz with a ball over the top into the area, but it hit the arm of Isak Hien. Liverpool screamed for a penalty to no avail, and Diaz was booked for dissent.

"Last week we were very poor and they had a good game," Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk told TNT Sports. "They deserved to go through because we made it far too difficult for ourselves.

"Tonight was a good game and we showed great fight. It was an improvement but the reality is we are out. We are disappointed to be out of the competition as we really wanted to win it."

Liverpool, who won the League Cup earlier this season, now turn their attention back to the Premier League. They are level on 71 points with second-placed Arsenal and two points behind leaders Manchester City.

They play at Fulham on Sunday in a quick turnaround. "We won tonight and we kept a clean sheet, so there are so many more positives we can take. Yes, it is a bad feeling to be out so we have to get back up," Van Dijk added.

"We have been through difficult moments all together, so showing maturity and togetherness is the key to this. We need everyone now for the last push in the league."

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