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History suggests not to RILE Reds; IAN DOYLE ON WHY SPANIARDS WILL KNOW EURO TIE IS FAR FROM OVER.

Byline: IANDOYLE

AS anybody who has had their nerves shredded by another last-gasp victory will attest, Liverpool haven't had it particularly easy this season.

But there has been something missing from their campaign that soon became glaringly apparent against Atletico Madrid and will resonate for weeks to come.

A bit of a needle. A touch of spite. A sense of indignation.

Sure, there have been the odd moments - Monterrey in the FIFA Club World Cup semifinal springs to mind - but nothing to compete with events at the Wanda Metropolitano on Tuesday.

Even the traditional battles against Chelsea, Everton and Manchester duo City and United have largely passed off without any unsavoury incidents.

Atletico, though, were of a different order, the genius of Diego Simeone at work as they underlined why they truly are the masters of the dark arts.

Across the city, Real Madrid wind-up merchant Sergio Ramos was surely nodding in approval.

"They started falling over and trying to get under our skin but we handled it well," said Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson. "They were falling over easy but we got on with it and we are better than that. It was a decent performance but we have a second leg to put it right.

"They celebrated as if they had won the tie. But let's see. We have some weeks then they come to Anfield. We know our fans will be there so it is up to them to come as well."

There hasn't really been such a reaction from Liverpool players since their last notable defeat in the Champions League semi-final at Barcelona last season.

The Reds were unhappy with some of the antics of the Barca players, Luis Suarez in particular, and were driven by a sense of an undeserved loss.

We all know what happened next.

Sometimes a little tweaking of the tail can help, defeat a reminder of mortality and an appreciation of the value of success.

There's no suggestion Liverpool have stepped off the gas in the Premier League, a remarkable record of 25 wins from 26 pointing to the opposite.

But the sense the championship is now inevitably returning to Anfield has perhaps subconsciously taken some of the edge off their game as well as that of their opponents.

Defeat has become a rare feeling for Liverpool, Tuesday only the fourth time the senior squad has lost in 14 months.

Each time they have responded with another lengthy winning run or, in the case of Barcelona, the greatest comeback in Champions League history.

The Anfield crowd, rarely in need for an excuse to ramp up the volume on a European night, can be guaranteed to do their job in rousing the troops in three weeks' time.

Atletico, though, will hope they haven't roused the monster with their trademark spoiling tactics.

Better teams have discovered you don't want to make this Liverpool side angry.

CAPTION(S):

Andy Robertson is challenged BYATLETICO Madrid's Sime Vrsaljko on Tuesday night GONZALO ARROYO MORENO

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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:IANDOYLE
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Feb 20, 2020
Words:497
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