Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and the Champions League fixture that drove home the realities of the coronavirus


Liverpool and Atletico Madrid will clash at Anfield in a Champions League clash on Tuesday (19 October). The match at the Wanda Metropolitano will undoubtedly be the center of attention among football fans.

Yet it is hard to watch this stillness and not remember the last time these two sides met. Both legs saw both sides play their best football, with Atlético eventually emerging victorious.

But the match is mostly remembered for the spread of the novel coronavirus. At that time, the virus was an unknown entity.

However, on the day the match went ahead, the coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Thus, the match was played in a somewhat strange background. The threat of COVID was real yet Anfield was packed. It was a decision that, in retrospect, led to the loss of life.

That infamous game has been around for over a year now. And as Liverpool and Atlético Madrid set to clash again this week, let’s look back at a match that changed the game – and society as well.

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The tie was slightly in Atlético’s favor, although it was not a huge lead that they had. They won the first leg 1–0 at home in the typical match of Atlético.

However, it was the same Liverpool side that conceded four goals to Barcelona on their way to winning the Champions League last season. A goal short was nothing in front of a packed Anfield crowd.

However, misgivings existed about holding the games. Jurgen Klopp was questioned by the media about whether the game should take place or not. Many felt that it should not go ahead.

But this was before Britain had even begun to take the virus seriously. British PM Boris Johnson spoke the day before the match about “taking it on the chin” and “allowing the disease, as it were, to move through the population”.

Therefore, Anfield welcomed a packed crowd – including around 3000 Atlético fans who had traveled from Spain. This is despite the fact that schools in Madrid had already been closed.

And it was not as if sports were exempted either. Football in Italy came to a halt as the country was hit hard by the first wave of infections. Rugby in England also ceased for an unspecified time.

Still the fans were in full force at Anfield. As hindsight shows, it was a decision many came to regret.

Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and COVID-19: An unholy trinity

The match itself was quite an entertaining affair, going into extra time at least once. Georginio Wijnaldum scored the only goal in regulation time; With the score at 1-1, extra time was upon us.

It was Liverpool who drew first blood in the extra 30 minutes. Roberto Firmino gave the home team the lead in the 94th minute. However, Marcos Llorente would pull one back for the visitors just three minutes later.

Now it was beneficial for Atlético. After scoring an away goal, they knew that even a draw was enough to see them through. But they found a safety net in the extra minute of the first half in extra time.

Llorente scored once again, meaning Liverpool now had the envious task of scoring 2 goals in the space of 15 minutes to win the tie.

In fairness to Liverpool, they gave it their all. But the tie was well and truly put on the bed a few seconds before it was due to end. Álvaro Morata would score the final goal, ensuring Atlético emerged 3–2 winners on the night – and 4–2 winners of the tie.

However, off the field the major effects of the game began to be felt the next day.

The blast of COVID-19 finally hits home

The day after the Champions League game between Liverpool and Atlético Madrid, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for the virus. And that’s when the powers that be in football panic.

Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi also caught the virus, and subsequent Premier League matches were postponed. This would eventually lead to a full-national lockdown and stoppage of the Games. Euro 2020 was postponed, as were the Tokyo Olympics and other major sporting events.

However, the match in question also affected the spread of the virus. This has been made clear in a recent report on Britain’s handling of the pandemic.

The report said, “This approach meant that events that spread the virus went ahead, such as the football match between Liverpool FC and Atlético Madrid – the day the coronavirus was classified as a pandemic by the WHO – and the Cheltenham Festival Off Racing”.

“Subsequent analysis suggests these events were followed by 37 and 41 additional deaths, respectively, in local hospitals.”

In short, there were 37 additional deaths as the match progressed in front of packed crowds. Not to mention the rapid spread of the virus to other parts of society.

The spread of the virus has decreased to some extent, especially in countries where vaccination is readily available. However, the reality of the pandemic is still part of everyday life.

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