Liverpool 'lost the plot' as Klopp concedes Reds face a mountain to climb against Atalanta

A 3-0 defeat at Anfield in quarter-final first leg leaves English club on bring of Europa League elimination

Atalanta striker Gianluca Scamacca, right, scored twice as the Italian side claimed a 3-0 win over Liverpool in their Europa League quarter-final first leg at Anfield. Getty
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Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool "lost the plot" after a 3-0 defeat at home to Atalanta left them on the brink of elimination from the Europa League.

Liverpool looked all at sea defensively in their quarter-final first leg and succumbed to a Gianluca Scamacca brace and a late Mario Pasalic goal.

It could actually have been worse for the home side as Atalanta spurned a series of chances late on.

Harvey Elliott hit the post in the first half and Mohamed Salah had a goal ruled out for offside in the second, but Liverpool lacked the spark needed to beat a well-organised Atalanta side, who will be confident of finishing the job next Thursday in Bergamo.

Before Klopp can think about that match, he must lift his players for Sunday’s visit of Crystal Palace in the tight battle at the top of the Premier League table.

“It was a really bad game, oh my God,” Klopp said after Liverpool’s first home defeat in nearly 14 months.

“We started well, really well and then didn’t continue. They broke, they scored and we just lost the plot a little bit. We were here and there in midfield, I didn’t recognise it.

“It was really strange but in football terms it was tactical discipline. There was a big chance for Darwin [Nunez] and then it was unlucky with Harvey, but they scored and we kept playing into their hands.

“We played a bad game and we we deserved to lose. We must feel that now but we have exactly this night to feel bad about it and then we have to build up for Palace.”

Klopp made six changes to his side following Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United, but his bid to freshen up the side failed, and their chances of ending the German’s reign with a showpiece final in Dublin have taken a huge hit.

Kostas Tsimikas had a night to forget at left-back and was replaced at half time with Elliott and the ineffective Curtis Jones also making way.

Nunez made way soon after, the Uruguayan guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance in the first half and generally poor in his build-up play.

“I believe it’s not the moment to talk about that,” Klopp said when asked if the tie was still alive. “I’m not in the mood to think about the game in a week’s time when we have another in between.

“Definitely we have to try, we want to win the game but now is not the moment to have a big mouth. We have to play a really good game.

“Where we are, this is probably a low point for us performance-wise so it should be possible to play a little bit better and we can play a lot better. But first and foremost it’s about Sunday now.”

The final whistle brought huge celebrations for Atalanta and their travelling fans. Gian Piero Gasperini said he wanted to enjoy the moment, but warned the job is only half done.

“Tonight was amazing,” he said through a translator. “I didn’t make any changes until 10 minutes to go and the only one change because it is hard to touch something about a team that held until the 90th minute in the best way.

“Such a victory, it’s OK to celebrate but we all know we will have to conquer everything in seven days’ time in Bergamo because Liverpool is a really strong team and they can score goals quickly.

“We will have to play another very precise game in every aspect and repeat tonight’s game because everything remains to be played. But our advantage makes us hope for the best.”

Leverkusen extend unbeaten run to 42 games

In Germany, Bundesliga champions-elect Bayer Leverkusen extended their unbeaten run this season to 42 games as they beat West Ham United 2-0 to seize control of their quarter-final tie.

Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface both came off the bench to score late goals for Xabi Alonso's side, with the opener arriving in the 83rd minute and the second coming in injury time.

The victory continues what could be a stunning week for Leverkusen, who are 16 points clear of Bayern Munich in Germany and can win their first Bundesliga title by beating Werder Bremen at home on Sunday.

Alonso told reporters "the anticipation is huge – it couldn't be bigger."

"We have a chance on Sunday – if we win, we're champions. We need to step on the gas and it would be something very special to achieve," he said.

If Leverkusen finish the job against West Ham, they will advance to a semi-final against either AC Milan or Roma, who clashed at San Siro in the first leg of their quarter-final on Thursday.

Roma ran out 1-0 winners on the night away to their Serie A rivals thanks to Gianluca Mancini's 17th-minute header from a corner. Mancini had also scored the winner in the Rome derby against Lazio last weekend.

"It's a great night for us. I couldn't have asked for more from this week," Mancini told broadcaster Rai.

Thursday's other game saw Benfica beat Marseille 2-1 in Lisbon in the first leg of their quarter-final.

Goals by Rafa Silva and Angel Di Maria either side of the break put the Portuguese side firmly in command, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's goal midway through the second half gives Marseille hope for the return next week.

Aubameyang is the Europa League's all-time top scorer with 58 goals and has 10 in 10 games in the competition this season.

Updated: April 12, 2024, 4:00 AM