Forlan laps up the adulation but the slim advantage could be tough to defend in England [AFP]

Uruguay striker Diego Forlan scored as Atletico Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 at home in the first leg of the Europa League semi-finals – while Fulham secured a goalless draw at Hamburg.

Both English sides travelled to their destinations by coach but felt few ill effects as they secured adequate results, although excitement was limited in both Germany and Spain.

Hamburg had the best of their tie against Londoners Fulham, drawing a string of saves out of goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer including a long-range effort from Ruud van Nistelrooy.

And a freak goal from Forlan left Liverpool down but not out, the former Manchester United striker missing an easy header but fluking a rebound attempt beyond Pepe Reina and into the net.

Reina pulled off a fine reflex save to deny Simao Sabrosa early in the second period and flung himself to his right to block a powerful Tomas Ujfalusi strike in the 76th minute as dominant Atletico pressed for a second goal.

Liverpool had the ball in the net in the first half but a Yossi Benayoun effort was ruled out for a dubious offside, while star striker Fernando Torres missed the chance to face his old club after undergoing surgery.

The return leg is at Anfield next Thursday, with the winners playing Hamburg or Fulham – who also play at Craven Cottage next week – in the final on May 12.

Source: Agencies