Liverpool failed to gain any reward for their valiant efforts in making the long-haul trip to Madrid as a familiar foe gave Atletico a 1-0 victory in their Europa League semi-final first leg.
Former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan hit a scrappy winner in only the ninth minute but the tie is far from over and even without an away goal Rafael Benitez's side will be optimistic of overturning the result at Anfield next week.
The Reds missed their injured striker Fernando Torres almost as much as the former darling of the Vicente Calderon missed the chance to face his old club, having also been denied that opportunity in the Champions League last season because of more fitness problems.
Benitez had insisted the 1,200-mile journey by coach, train and eventually plane - after UEFA's insistence the match go ahead despite the volcanic ash cloud which grounded flights across Europe - had brought his squad closer together. If only his defence had been tighter-knit in the ninth minute then they may not have conceded.
It was Forlan who returned to haunt the Merseysiders when Jose Manuel Jurado's cross from the left dropped over Jamie Carragher and picked him out on the edge of the six-yard area. The ball from his duffed header dropped right at his feet he poked it home off goalkeeper Jose Reina.
Had Yossi Benayoun enjoyed a similar slice of good fortune a minute later from Dirk Kuyt's cross his header would have nestled in the net instead of flying wide of the far post.
The Israeli beat Atletico goalkeeper David de Dea eight minutes later but again the luck was against him, this time by virtue of a wrong offside decision. Kuyt's mis-hit shot bobbled into the penalty area where Benayoun slotted the ball home only to be denied by an erroneous flag, as television replays proved.
Atletico's threat had not diminished and even right-back Tomas Ujfalusi got in on the act, weaving into the penalty area before shooting into the side-netting five minutes before half-time.
Forlan fluffed another a good chance soon after the break when he was put through on the edge of the penalty area but it was Reina's brilliance in producing a one-handed save which denied one-time Liverpool target Simao from Ujfalusi's cross.
The goalkeeper came to his side's rescue again as he beat away Ujfalusi's long-range strike and Carragher cleared as Atletico regained the initiative.
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