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Van Dijk admits damage done in first leg as Liverpool exit Europe to Atalanta

Liverpool are out of Europe with a 1-0 win at Atalanta not enough to turn around their quarter-final tie in Bergamo.

Jurgen Klopp’s side had a mountain to climb after a damaging 3-0 defeat at Anfield last week, but hopes of an unlikely comeback were ignited when Mohamed Salah opened the scoring after seven minutes of the return.

The Egyptian international confidently converted from the penalty spot after a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross was handled inside the area. Salah then missed a glorious chance to double Liverpool’s lead on the night when he lofted a simple finish wide of the post, with Juan Musso off his line.

 

There was a contentious call when Isak Hien was booked for handball, with the defender’s intervention having blocked Luis Diaz from racing onto a through pass. The Merseysiders argued Diaz was in on goal, though a yellow card was awarded.

Liverpool struggled to create chances after half-time as Atalanta worked tirelessly out of possession, their disciplined defensive performance booking the Italians a first European semi-final since 1988.

Klopp’s final European tie in charge of Liverpool ended in a win on the night, though their Europa League exit is a bitter disappointment with the Reds considered favourites to reach the Dublin final. Attention now turns back to the Premier League title race and a trip to face Fulham on Sunday.

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

“Tonight was a good game and we showed great fight. It was an improvement but the reality is we are out and we have to very quickly recover and travel to London on Saturday.

“We tried and we had opportunities. At times we wanted it too quickly as everyone was keen to get the second and third. But overall it isn’t enough.

“We are disappointed to be out of the competition as we really wanted to win it.”

 

Liverpool will aim to get their fortunes back on track at Fulham this weekend, with the Reds two points behind Manchester City in the title race. Van Dijk said his side will try to take the positives from a win at Atalanta.

“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.

“We have been through difficult moments all together, so showing maturity and togetherness is the key to this. And professionalism to be ready for Sunday as that will also be a tough game. We all have a responsibility to be ready for it physically and mentally.

“We need everyone now for the last push in the league. Hopefully our fans will be there because we need them now more than ever because anything is still possible.”

Read – Ranking the five favourites for the 2023/24 PFA Player of the Year award

See more – Five transfer release clauses we expect to be triggered this summer

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