The UEFA Europa League semi-final was a case of "so near yet so far" for Pepe Reina although the Liverpool FC goalkeeper had the small consolation of losing to his father's old club.
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Liverpool FC's Pepe Reina rued the one blemish that cost the goalkeeper a clean sheet and his club a place in the UEFA Europa League final.
Diego Forlán's strike for Club Atlético de Madrid 12 minutes into extra time at Anfield fatally undermined the hosts' position in a tie they had appeared set to win. The away goal wrested the advantage back from Liverpool, who had just gone ahead at 2-1 on aggregate courtesy of Yossi Benayoun, and sufficed to send the visitors to the Hamburg showpiece.
"It was so close and yet so far," Reina told UEFA.com. "The team tried everything but just couldn't make it. We knew it was going to be tough to keep a clean sheet against Atlético for 90 minutes, never mind 120. It is never easy against those kinds of teams who are good on the counterattack."
Ryan Babel, deployed on the left wing in this semi-final second leg, conveyed the same sense of frustration. "We made one mistake and they scored the goal," he told UEFA.com. "I think we were controlling the game, we scored two goals and that looked like being enough. But they managed to get a goal and after that it was difficult for us to find a third. They didn't have that many chances, and that's what makes it so disappointing. We were punished for one mistake."
Whereas Alberto Aquilani's 44th-minute opener reflected Liverpool's initial supremacy in the return match, the Liga outfit barely troubled Reina's goal until late in the second half – being limited to speculative shots. "Yet once they scored we just couldn't find a way back," Reina admitted. "It is a difficult moment, both physically and mentally, and it's been a tough season, but we have to pick ourselves up."
With the Reds' home Premier League campaign ending against Chelsea FC on Sunday, the custodian is demanding a restorative result as a way of thanking the fans for their support. "Once again we as a team were very proud of our supporters," he said. "They are what the club is about, and without them it's possible we wouldn't have got the two goals. I'm just sorry we couldn't do it for them. We now hope to give them something back by winning our last home game."
For all his personal disappointment, the Madrid-born player conceded he will at least be supporting Liverpool's conquerors in the final against Fulham FC. After all, his father kept goal for Atlético between 1973 and 1980. "They are Spanish, they are the ex-club of my father, and they are a really nice team," he said. "I grew up with a lot of sympathy for this team, so I will definitely be supporting them in the final."