Real Madrid come from two down to earn stunning win at Liverpool
Holders Real Madrid produced a stunning comeback from two goals down to earn a devastating victory at a shell-shocked Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.
Two goals each from Vinicius Jr. and Karim Benzema turned what had looked like being an unpleasant evening for Real into a stylish romp that left Jurgen Klopp’s side flat on the canvas and facing a monumental task to reach the quarterfinals.
It was Liverpool’s heaviest home defeat in Champions League history, eclipsing a 3-0 loss to the same opponents in 2014.
In a re-run of last year’s final, the first half was played at a ferocious pace, with the hosts racing into a fourth-minute lead through a superb Darwin Nunez flick – the quickest goal Liverpool have ever scored at Anfield in the Champions League.
The stadium erupted 10 minutes later when an horrendous miscontrol from Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois let Mohamed Salah in for the second, with the Egyptian now Liverpool’s all time top goalscorer in European competition.
Yet just as they did on several occasions en route to their 14th European Cup crown last season, Real quickly turned things around, with Vinicius scoring one sublime strike and one fluke goal after another goalkeeping mistake to level the match by halftime.
A bullet Eder Militao header completed the turnaround for Real early in the second half, sapping all the life out of Anfield in the process.
The hosts’ misery was not done there, however, as Benzema’s double ensured Liverpool shipped five goals at home for only the third time this century in all competitions.
“It’s an important night for us, we showed personality and scored the goals we needed. We want this Champions League title,” Benzema told Movistar Plus.
“We struggled in the beginning, they started well, better than us, it was a big game. But we managed to turn things around. We are in a good position but football is tricky and we have to close the deal at home.”
LESSON IN HOW TO KILL A GAME
Klopp said in the run-up to the match that he had been unable to rewatch last season’s final, which Real won 1-0, until this weekend, insisting doing so was torture, reliving how Liverpool had their chances to claim victiory in the Paris showpiece.
Fourteen minutes in at Anfield and some form of redemption seemed to be on the cards for the Liverpool manager.
First, Nunez darted onto Salah’s pinpoint pass and flicked the ball through his legs into the net, before the Egyptian’s record-breaking goal, from a mistake by Courtois, who was man of the match in the Paris final, made it two.
A player of Vinicius’s ability only needs one chance and a superb slotted finish from the edge of the penalty area started the comeback, before Alisson fired the ball at the Brazilian, with the rebound bouncing into the unguarded net.
The second half was a lesson in how to kill a game, and potentially the tie, from Real, who did not give Liverpool an inch and took their chances clinically.
Militao’s superb header from Luka Modric’s corner was unstoppable, but there was more than an element of fortune about the fourth as Joe Gomez deflected Benzema’s effort over the stranded Alisson.
Benzema’s second was expertly put away on the counter, as the Real striker coolly took his time to find the net and finish the hosts off. The Frenchman has scored six goals against Liverpool in the Champions League, more than any other player.
“It’s hard to sum it up straight after the game,” Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson told BT Sport.
“Mixed feelings. Frustration with the result. For large parts of the first half we performed well and were unlucky to be level at halftime. We made too many mistakes. Real Madrid punished us every time tonight.”