Any euphoria at the Vicente Calderón on Thursday was restricted to the terraces as Diego Forlán and Luis Perea insisted Club Atlético de Madrid's 1-0 victory against Liverpool FC in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals was only half a job.
Forlán struck the only goal after nine minutes, forcing the ball past Pepe Reina to put the hosts on course for what, remarkably, is only their second victory in Europe this season since qualifying. Indeed, inconsistency has blighted Atlético all campaign, a mid-term improvement masking their horrific start to 2009/10 though a run of three successive defeats before last night was a timely reminder that nothing can be taken for granted.
It is a lesson Forlán knows only too well. "The important thing is that we've won and Liverpool haven't scored," was his succinct assessment of the first leg. "
The goal is undoubtedly important but there are still 90 very difficult minutes ahead of us against an experienced team who will be at home – it will be a tough match."
Tenacious midfielder Perea echoed that caution: "It was vital not to concede but we haven't done anything yet, the goal means nothing – we have to go out in England with the same aggression and focus we showed here at home. We will head to Anfield with more belief, more strength, but we cannot think the job is done because we are up against one of the best teams in Europe."
A team, though, without arguably their best player in Fernando Torres, who has been ruled out for the season with a knee injury. Several Atlético players spoke of their "relief" at not having to face their former team-mate, including José Manuel Jurado. The 23-year-old did break ranks when the subject of the second leg came up, though: "
Playing at Anfield in a European semi-final is a dream for almost every footballer; it's an incredible stadium." Should they prevail next week, he is unlikely to be the only Atlético player saying that.
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