Reds snatch last-gasp draw

04 November 2008 10:01
Steven Gerrard's controversial stoppage-time penalty salvaged Liverpool a 1-1 Champions League Group D draw at home to Atletico Madrid. The Reds skipper won a spot-kick when he went down in the penalty area deep in stoppage time under minimal contact from full-back Mariano Pernia. Gerrard held his nerve to convert the pressure-filled spot-kick which denied Atletico a guaranteed place in the knockout stages and kept both sides locked together on eight points at the top of a congested group. The late award infuriated the Atletico players as Gerrard appeared to make the most of any contact, but Liverpool dominated the second half and, on the balance of play, perhaps deserved a share of the spoils. The late equaliser also prevented the Reds from slipping to a second successive defeat following the weekend loss at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur. Liverpool were dealt a blow before kick-off when Rafael Benitez omitted star striker Fernando Torres from the squad, with the former Atletico man still not considered fully-fit following his latest hamstring injury. However, the home side dominated possession in the opening stages and Daniel Agger appealed unsuccessfully for a penalty when a pull in the box prevented him from reaching Robbie Keane's mis-hit shot in front of goal after three minutes. Keane rifled a 15th minute shot inches wide of the post after being picked out perfectly by Xabi Alonso's pinpoint 60-yard pass. But for all Liverpool's early endeavour, they were lucky not to be behind soon after when Simao contrived to sidefoot a Pernia cross over the bar from just seven yards after the ball unexpectedly fell to the Portugal midfielder. Keane should have put his side into a 33rd minute lead when he latched on to Alvaro Arbeloa's long ball and found himself one-on-one with the keeper, only for Leo Franco to dive in bravely to divert the ball to safety. Liverpool were made to pay as the visitors stormed ahead four minutes later against the run of play when Antonio Lopez found himself in an advanced position down the right flank and picked out Maxi Rodriguez. The Atletico skipper's first touch took him past Jamie Carragher before he powered an angled shot from six yards across the keeper and into the far corner of the net. Liverpool began the second half at a high tempo and Agger was twice guilty of missing clear-cut chances. On 57 minutes his deft header glanced Fabio Aurelio's free-kick onto roof of the net with the keeper in no-man's land, while seven minutes later he miscued a volley from eight yards straight at Franco. Gerrard tried his luck with a string off off-target shots from distance as Atletico looked set to hold out for the points with a strong defensive display. Agger missed another gilt-edged chance as he glanced a header wide from close range, while Carragher's 20-yard drive was palmed over the bar by Franco, who looked to have earned his side a priceless win. However, Gerrard was to have the final say as, with the help of a generous referee, he pulled his side level and earned them what could prove a vital point.

Source: ESA

World Cup Group G

Pos Team Pld Pts
- Belgium 0 0
- Panama 0 0
- Tunisia 0 0
- England 0 0