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Club Atlético de Madrid hold the upper hand in their UEFA Europa League semi-final against Liverpool FC after Diego Forlán's early goal secured the hosts a 1-0 lead at the tie's halfway mark.
Forlán struck in the ninth minute, although Atlético failed to convert several chances to make their trip to Anfield more comfortable. It is the Spanish side, though, with the narrow edge ahead of next Thursday's decider as they attempt to reach their first major European final since the 1985/86 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.
With the hosts' Sergio Agüero suspended and Liverpool's former Atlético striker Fernando Torres out through injury, the onus was on their replacements – José Manuel Jurado and David Ngog respectively – to supply a cutting edge. Jurado did not wait long to take his cue. In the ninth minute he crossed for an unmarked Forlán, and although the Uruguay marksman completely mistimed his header, the ball fell kindly for him and he bundled it past the scrambling duo of Pepe Reina and Jamie Carragher.
There was concern Liverpool might be sluggish after a 24-hour journey to Madrid, but the visitors responded well with Yossi Benayoun popping up in dangerous positions and Steven Gerrard serving notice of his threat in the 19th minute as drove into the side netting.
Proceedings settled down, but the pace was again picked up after the interval. Liverpool pushed early but as they committed more men forward Los Colchoneros spied opportunities to counter and Forlán slipped the offside trap only to fluff his lines with just Reina to beat.
Reina was forced into more meaningful work in the 57th minute. Tomáš Ujfaluši's probings from right-back had offered Atlético a useful outlet and a trademark run and deep cross reached Simão who did well to slide and meet the ball on the half-volley. His effort was bound for the top corner, but Reina flicked up a hand to divert it over.
Atlético continued to carry the most threat and Reina did well to beat out Ujfaluši's 76th-minute strike. The sides' previous two meetings had both ended 1-1, but Atlético were not to be denied this time and also maintained their record of never having lost to an English club at home.
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