Kieran Trippier has said he is loving every minute of playing for Diego Simeone and has not experienced anything like the never-say-die attitude that the Atlético Madrid coach creates.
Atlético became the first visiting team to win at Anfield in 18 months, and first European team for almost six years, when eliminating holders Liverpool from the Champions League on Wednesday. Their defensive performance prompted a churlish reaction from Jürgen Klopp, a self-confessed “under-average loser”, who said he did not understand why a team with such quality chose to play that way. “They could play proper football,” the Liverpool manager said following his team’s 3-2 loss and 4-2 aggregate defeat.
Trippier, however, insists the belief and defensive organisation that Simeone’s players showed in ending Liverpool’s unbeaten home run of 42 matches deserves immense credit. They celebrated in their dressing room with two crates of San Miguel.
The former Tottenham full-back said: “You have seen over many years how strong Atlético are. I’ve been here seven months and I’ve never seen anything like it, to be honest. Starting from Diego Simeone – everyone feeds off him – he’s an unbelievable manager. I can’t really explain how good it is here, it is just an unbelievable feeling and I’m proud to be part of this team.
“To defend like we did at Anfield we knew would be very difficult because of the occasion and the fans but we had that never-say-die attitude even when we went 1-0 down and we knew we just needed to score once and get that away goal. But to score three was an amazing feeling.”
Atlético were indebted to the outstanding Jan Oblak for limiting Liverpool to two goals from 35 attempts on the night. “One of the best goalkeepers in the world,” said Trippier. “There have been so many games this season where he has pulled some saves off and I have thought to myself ’How did you do that?’” But the defender insists his team’s compact shape and work-rate were also crucial in preventing Liverpool repeating last season’s semi-final recovery against Barcelona.
“As a team we are so strong defensively, we keep our shape and we run ourselves into the ground for each other,” he said. “Obviously we knew Liverpool had beaten Barcelona 4-0 last year but they are playing a different team in us – they are playing a defensively strong team who will never give up. When we went 1-0 down, we never dropped our heads. We knew we just needed to score one goal. Most important is that we got a win against a fantastic team.
“It is a huge achievement. We knew Liverpool were going to be very offensive at home. We just knew we had to stay compact, keep our shape, like we’ve been doing in training all week, and then try and frustrate them as much as we can. We had to be clinical in the right moments because you don’t get many chances here and the substitutes had a huge impact. They are so important. At this club everybody gives 100%.”
Atlético’s game-plan brought no complaints from Virgil van Dijk. The Liverpool defender said: “It is their right to approach the game the way they did. We did everything we could to win the game. We were outstanding for 95 minutes. The difference was their goalkeeper.”
Trippier admitted he is thriving professionally and personally since leaving Spurs for Madrid in a £20m deal last summer. “I’m delighted to be part of this team and enjoying every single moment of playing abroad,” he said. “I didn’t want to come to the end of my career and regret not going. It is a big change, different culture, different types of football, but I am loving every minute of it and hopefully my performances for Atletico can keep me in the England squad. I want to play at the highest level for as long as I can in order to play for England. That’s my objective.”