Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool: Reds left with it all to do in Champions League quarter-final after two-goal first-leg defeat by Zinedine Zidane’s side… with Vinicius Jnr netting twice as Jurgen Klopp’s team are punished for slow start
- Vinicius Junior put Real Madrid ahead with his fifth goal of the season from Toni Kroos’ pinpoint long pass
- Marco Asensio then doubled the lead after Trent Alexander-Arnold headed Kroos’ ball into the Spaniard’s path
- Mohamed Salah halved the deficit after a swift break at the start of the second half to give the Reds hope
- But Vinicius Jr. netted his second to give Zinedine Zidane’s team a two-goal lead in this last-eight contest
- The second-leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie will take place at an empty Anfield next Wednesday
It will have to be another one of those special European nights at Anfield. A very special night, really, given the unique circumstances of the return. ‘This is Anfield’ says the sign. But it isn’t at the moment, shorn of its sound and fury.
So, two goals down against one of the most experienced teams in Europe, can Liverpool do it without The Kop, without that famous roar, without the inspiration of supporters who legend has it suck the ball towards an opponents’ goal? Can they do it in an echoing empty arena, against a Real Madrid team that has passed this way so many times before, without flinching?
This was a huge win for Zinedine Zidane and his players, given the absence of centre-halves Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. Ramos sat in the stand, casually attired, looking like a west coast computer programmer, Varane was at home, isolating with covid.
Vinicius Junior scored twice for Real Madrid as they beat Liverpool 3-1 to take a two-goal advantage to Anfield next week
Marco Asensio was also on target for Zinedine Zidane’s men who delivered a complete performance on home soil
Mohamed Salah appeared to give Liverpool hope with a goal early on in the second half after a dismal first-half Reds display
But 20-year-old Brazilian Vinicius scored again to ensure Zidane and his men are in the driving seat to progress to the semis
Andy Robertson and Nat Phillips look dejected as their side put in an abject first-half performance in the Spanish capital
Real Madrid (4-3-3): Courtois; Lucas Vazquez, Eder Militao, Nacho, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Asensio (Valverde 70), Benzema, Vinicius Junior (Rodrygo 85)
Subs: Marcelo, Lunin, Odriozola, Isco, Mariano, Altube, Arribas, Chust
Goals: Vinicius 27, 65, Asensio 36
Booking: Lucas Vazquez
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Kabak (Firmino 81), Phillips, Robertson; Keita (Thiago 42), Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Jota (Shaqiri 81), Mane
Subs: Milner, Adrian, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Tsimikas, Ben Davies, Rhys Williams, Harvey Davies, Cain
Goal: Salah 51
Bookings: Mane, Thiago, Alexander-Arnold
Referee: Felix Brych (Germany)
A hastily reshuffled back four – Madrid have been playing five – was considered ripe for exploitation by Liverpool’s front three. Instead, they held firm. Eder Militao has made little impression since his £45m transfer from Porto in 2019, but he was exceptional here.
By contrast, a Liverpool back line that had begun to look settled after the season’s injury crises, fell apart. In the first-half, in particular, they were desperately poor and, when Mohamed Salah had got them back into the tie with his 27th goal of the season, conceding a soft third left them with a hill to climb.
Not a mountain. A 2-0 win in next Wednesday’s return would do it. But Madrid will fancy their chances of an away goal, too, and if Liverpool concede they will need three on the night just to force extra-time.
They put four past Barcelona two years ago, of course, but the recent records of the Spanish giants in Europe show a marked difference in temperament under pressure. Madrid have lifted four Champions League trophies in the time Barcelona have one.
And Liverpool have experience, too. Between them, these clubs share 19 Champions League and European Cup victories, although that statistic flatters Liverpool. More than two-thirds – 13 – belong to Madrid. Given a two goal first-leg lead, and an empty Anfield, they have personnel who will not be fazed by mere circumstance.
Just as they were not fazed when Liverpool got an away goal here. Jurgen Klopp’s team were utterly outplayed for the first 45 minutes and went in two goals down, but re-emerged energised and enjoyed their brightest spell of the game. Whatever Klopp said behind closed doors worked.
Lucas Vazquez was booked for a foul on Diogo Jota and for the first time the Spaniards were under pressure. Then Liverpool scored. Georginio Wijnaldum fed a pass into Jota whose shot was blocked but fell to Salah, who finished sharply.
A lesser team might have buckled. In that moment, a comeback looked possible. A draw, maybe even a win. But Madrid’s experience showed. They can play possession football, they stay calm, they strike on the counter-attack and they are lethal given a sniff of a chance. And Liverpool were in the business of giving up huge, nostril-flared sniffs.
So it was that in the 65th minute, a Vazquez throw to Karim Benzema found Luka Modric on the edge of the penalty area to the right. It was the simplest square pass and the sloppiest marking, Nathaniel Phillips affording Vinicius Junior far too much room.
Vinicius opened the scoring after controlling a brilliant Toni Kroos pass before slotting the ball past Alisson in goal
Trent Alexander-Arnold then headed Kross’ pass into Asensio who lobbed Alisson and then prodded home from a few yards
The Brazilian – Madrid’s youngest goalscorer in the knockout stage of this competition since Raul in 1996, and Tuesday night’s man of the match – sized up the space, the goal and the gap between Phillips’ outstretched legs and put the ball smartly into the corner of the net. It was the riposte of a team that is not easily shaken.
A good team, too. The first-half was shocking. Not just in terms of Liverpool’s performance, but shocking to those who thought a corner had been turned after the Leipzig wins. Who imagined Liverpool could revert to playing this poorly? In 45 minutes, Liverpool created no chances, they gave the ball away with depressing regularity, and the defence was a shambles.
Those who had gone into battle for Trent Alexander-Arnold over his international omission were also left red-faced. If Gareth Southgate wished to make his case, he only needed to rerun this half. Alexander-Arnold looked every bit number four in a field of four – maybe even fifth of five if Aaron Wan-Bissaka was a contender.
Madrid went two goals clear and it could have been more; from first to last they were the better team and Klopp was forced to make an initial change after just 43 minutes. It was as if they had never ventured this far in the tournament before. What happened to the Premier League’s European specialists?
Liverpool, however, were incensed that Sadio Mane had not won a free-kick from Lucas Vazquez seconds before the goal
Klopp made a change before the break and his side started the second half well with Salah managing to halve the deficit
They were caught out by long balls, by short passing, by quick running, by counter-attacks, by crosses. The back four played as if introduced in the car park 30 minutes before kick-off. And, yes, this is Real Madrid. This competition is familiar territory.
Yet Liverpool were fancied after such a competent display previously. That Klopp was shuffling midfielders before half-time showed his displeasure with Liverpool in possession, too. He had selected Naby Keita ahead of Thiago Alcantara but was forced to reverse that decision. To be fair, at that stage, he could have changed half the team.
From the second minute Madrid were on the front foot. Benzema – the man who truly picked up the slack when Cristiano Ronaldo left – tried a shot that was comfortably saved by Alisson. The next chance, after 13 minutes, was the shape of things to come.
Ferland Mendy sped down the left flank and left Alexander-Arnold trailing. He crossed for Vinicius Junior who steered a header just wide with Alisson scrambling. It was the beginning of a torrid half for Liverpool’s right-back.
But the night ultimately belonged to Vinicius, who managed to sweep Luka Modric’s ball across the box past Alisson
Fabinho and the Reds have it all to do on home turf next week if they are to avoid losing their final shot at silverware this year
Rattled, he gave the ball away after 25 minutes, allowing Benzema to break, put off at the vital moment by a challenge from Ozan Kabak. It was a rare moment of strong, quality defending. Within two minutes, Madrid went ahead. Toni Kroos received the ball from Eder Militao and played a long ball forward. It was a good ball, but needed work.
Vinicius Junior turned it into something great. He killed it on his chest and with one touch took an overwhelmed Phillips out of the game. A low shot past Alisson did the rest. It was route one, in its way, but of the very highest quality.
Worse was to come. In the 36th minute, another Kroos ball over the top brought inexplicable panic and Alexander-Arnold made an ambitious attempt to head it back towards Alisson. It fell short, and was read perfectly by Marco Asensio, who nipped in, clipped it around the goalkeeper and then tapped it into an empty net. Liverpool were in disarray.
Sadio Mane was booked for arguing that Madrid’s move started with a foul on him by Vazquez. Referee Felix Brych was having none of it, and neither was Marco Fritz, the VAR. That looked about right. A coming together, no more. Even a full house at Anfield wouldn’t have influenced the call. Not that Liverpool can rely on one of those next week, either.
Real Madrid were without captain Sergio Ramos (above) with a calf injury and Raphael Varane due to a positive Covid-19 test
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Advantage Madrid then ahead of the second leg after they win 3-1 here.
Vinicius scored twice for the hosts either side of Asensio’s strike, but Salah’s early second-half goal does give the Reds some hope ahead of the Anfield clash.
Salah finds some space on the edge of the box after some rather scrappy build-up play, but Nacho is on hand to throw his body in the way of the shot.
Four minutes added on at the end of this one, and it looks like there will be a two-goal deficit for Liverpool ahead of the Anfield second leg.
Toni Kroos does give an inaccurate pass this time, proving he is human. Mane is the beneficiary but he goes down clutching his leg on the edge of the box.
But no foul is given and Madrid clear, but there is late pressure here from the visitors.
Now a change for the hosts, with Rodrygo replacing the excellent Vinicius.
Alexander-Arnold gets a yellow card for dissent after becoming frustrated with Vinicius’ histrionics, with the Brazilian going down after barely any contact from the right-back.
Real Madrid delivering an exhibition in how to keep the ball, before Valverde tries to find Benzema, but Phillips gets a nick on the cross.
Meanwhile, a double change for the Reds, with Shaqiri and Firmino on for Kabak and Jota.
Not been a day for midfielders and their left foots has it?
Thiago, on his second Champions League appearance for Liverpool, smashes a wild effort at Courtois’ goal but takes a similar trajectory to Kroos’ earlier effort.
The hosts once more demonstrating their experience at this level, Madrid taking the intensity out of the game and just managing the situation well with a bit of swagger included.
Vinicius Junior really looks in the mood tonight, and a smart turn allows him to feed Benzema, who has a near post shot saved by Alisson.
At the other end, Jota glances a header from Salah’s cross well wide of the post.
The referee has a quick word with Vinicius after he reacts badly to a shoulder barge from Alexander-Arnold, before Fede Valverde replaces Marco Asensio.
Liverpool look very exposed at the back again and they nearly pay once more. Asensio gallops down the right but once again it is Alexander-Arnold who does enough to see the move break down, allowing Alisson to claim.
Well having done so well to cut the deficit, that two-goal lead is restored for Madrid.
Benzema finds Modric after a throw in, and the Croatian swiftly lays it across to Vinicius, whose shot goes between Phillips’ legs and Alisson cannot keep it out.
And mow a goalsaving tackle from Mendy there.
Jota is on the end of a low ball across the box, but finds it has too much pace to take the shot on, and his pass to Mane is intercepted by the Frenchman.
Then the resulting corner sees Benzema feed Asensio, who looks to punish them on the break, but Alexander-Arnold gets back to intercept his pass to Vinicius.
Toni Kroos has been running most of the game with his passes, but he fluffs his lines to add a third for Madrid.
Liverpool fail to clear Mendy’s pass and Asensio tees up the German, but his left foot shot is both high and wild.
This game has really sprung to life as a thrilling contest between the two sides.
At one end, Phillips does so well to block Benzema’s shot, with the striker having worked some space for himself well.
Robertson is then brilliant closed down by Vazquez to stop a cut back being slotted home.
Alexander-Arnold has been the opposite of the player who made the error in the first half, delivering another sumptuous delivery which Militao does well to head away.
Thiago then becomes the latest player to go into the book as we approach the final half an hour of the first leg.
This is so much better from the Reds. This time it is Alexander-Arnold who delivers a delicious cross which Jota can only head down and wide at the near post.
The visitors have raised the energy at the start of this half and have their reward just six minutes into the second half.
Wijnaldum’s break sees him find Jota, who feints inside and attempts to shoot. His effort does not trouble Courtois but it falls to Salah, who crashes home an effort off Courtois and in off the underside of the bar.
First Real Madrid booking, with Lucas Vazquez cautioned after a poorly-timed sliding challenge on Jota.
Better start from Liverpool, with Mane winning the foul from Militao. That free-kick however ends with Thiago overhitting a long cross towards the Senegalese.
The visitors get us back underway, having only failed to score away from home twice this season. Can they get a crucial away goal?
Peter Crouch ‘100 per cent’ shares Liverpool’s view that Lucas Vazquez fouled Sadio Mane just 27 seconds before the second goal.
Can the hosts bounce back through the Senegalese in the second half?
Here’s how Vinicius and Marco Asensio have put the hosts in command of this tie.
Troubling half for the visitors, who have fallen two goals behind thanks to goals from Vinicius and Marco Asensio.
Toni Kroos caused both with his long-range passing, the first finding Vinicius with such a ball who slotted past Alisson, before Alexander-Arnold headed the German’s pass to Asensio who made no mistake.
The Reds were furious that Mane had not won a foul from Vazquez a few moments prior to the second goal, but they have simply struggled to gather any attacking momentum at the Alfredo di Stefano.
Plenty for Klopp to think about.
One minute added on as one of Thiago’s first involvements is to get the giving the ball away virus.
The visitors have just not got started in an attacking sense in Madrid.
Liverpool make their first change, with Keita withdrawn for Thiago Alcantara.
Moments later the hosts are nearly punished again, with Kabak making a hash of his pass back to Alisson with a loopy sliced ball, but the Brazilian gets something on Asensio’s eventual shot.
Sadio Mane is the first player in the book for continuing the Liverpool protests about the goal.
The hosts in firm control.
Another long ball from Kroos signals the situation going from bad to worse for Liverpool.
The German’s ball is headed by Alexander-Arnold straight into the path of Asensio, who gets a touch past Alisson before prodding home into an empty net.
Liverpool are furious that Vazquez was not penalised for a foul on Mane at the other end, moments before Kroos pinged the ball.
Vinicius Junior and Benzema are causing Liverpool all sorts of issues. The latter tries to draw a penalty from Kabak, but it is more a tangle of legs than anything, albeit it is a bit scruffy.
Then the Brazilian receives the ball from the Frenchman and hits a strike at goal which Phillips blocks, before Asensio fires over from the resulting corner.
Liverpool look to hit back after a rather tepid opening half an hour from them, but Mane’s cross is easily claimed by Courtois.
Salah however runs in behind moments later and wins a corner for his side.
First blood to the hosts, and what a pinpoint ball it is from Kroos.
The German pings a gorgeous ball into the Brazilian without him having to break stride, and then he controls the ball with his upper chest before firing coolly past Alisson.
Liverpool defence nowhere to be seen.
Neither side wanting to keep the ball in these last few minutes, with Luka Modric and Lucas Vazquez guilty for the hosts and Keita for the visitors.
All has led to the game being slowed down, only for Benzema to nearly make the hosts pay with a missplaced pass, but Kabak does brilliantly to track the Frenchman one on one and block his shot.
The visitors just trying to take some sting out of the game with some possession in the Madrid half after their confident start.
But so far they are holding firm and have given Klopp and his men a few headaches.
Strong defending from Kabak there after more nice pace down the left from Madrid.
Vinicius is the player the young defender has to nullify, and he does so with some strength and clever positional play.
Real Madrid showing their experience at this stage of the competition despite the absence of Varane and Ramos so far.
Alexander-Arnold however looks to find Mane and assist as he did at the weekend, and only a Lucas Vazquez header stops the ball finding the Senegalese.
First moments of real danger for Liverpool. Vinicius gets clear down the left and cuts the ball back to Modric, who goes down in the penalty box looking for a penalty.
Replays however show Wijnaldum pulled out of making any challenging.
Mendy then beats Alexander-Arnold and finds Vinicius, who plants his header wide.
Liverpool have not won in six meetings in Spain against Spanish opposition, and they have certainly been on the back foot here.
Salah tries to get them going but Courtois mops up for the hosts. Fabinho is then forced to tidy up for the visitors after Vinicius’ run.
Very much the hosts on the front foot so far, but the offside flag has come to the rescue of Liverpool on a couple of occasions. Asensio and Vinicius dropping deep when Liverpool have the ball but are racing forward when they get the chance too.
Bright start this from the hosts, who are trying to dictate play on their terms with their passing and through Karim Benzema, with Ferland Mendy also trying to go forward.
First shot of the evening from the in-form Karim Benzema, who whizzes a left-foot strike down the throat of Alisson.
It’s the hosts who get us going at the Estadio Alfredo di Stefano on a clear night in Madrid, as they meet for the second time in a two-legged affair.
The hosts standing in the tunnel, with Thibaut Courtois even allowing himself to smile briefly, before Karim Benzema leads them out, soon followed by the visitors.
It’s a cold one tonight, so get those cuppas ready, and hopefully there’ll be some further warmth provided by this blockbuster clash.
Jurgen Klopp on Naby Keita to BT Sport: ‘He should play good, that would be nice. I could not avoid him anymore with all the training performances and that is the result of it.
‘Naby brings special things in. RM are man marking and defending so we need dribblers, people who like this situation and can turn, make the next situation a big advantage. And that is what Naby’s job is tonight other than defending, shooting, fighting, all these things.’
He was his team-mate for just one season, but Michael Owen did not have Zidane down as future manager then.
Real Madrid have won eight and lost five of their last 13 two-legged knockout ties with English clubs.
It had however all been going swimmingly with three straight wins against English sides before the loss to Man City last season.
Liverpool have meanwhile won 15 of their last 23 European fixtures but have only won two of their last 12 matches against Spanish opposition, suffering eight defeats in the process.
What can the sides’ latest form hint at tonight? Well, both, despite disappointments over the course of the season, are back in business right now.
Madrid have won nine of their last 11 matches in all competitions, including a 2-0 success over Eibar on Saturday afternoon.
Liverpool are also back on track for a top four finish, having won three on the trot and now sitting two points off fourth after winning at Arsenal.
Michael Owen highlights the Real Madrid midfield as an area where there has been little change and that has aged since the 2018 final.
But can the trio show age is just a number tonight?
Real Madrid won a 13th European title, but it was a night to forget for Loris Karius and the Reds…
One man who will be glad not to have to face Sergio Ramos tonight is Mohamed Salah.
Left in tears in Kiev, he has gone on to achieve plenty domestically and on the continent, but can he take another step tonight against a side he has been linked with?
We know all about the 2018 final meeting between these two sides, but what happened the last time these two sides met on Spanish soil?
Well, it saw Brendan Rodgers field a weakened side, but now Jurgen Klopp’s men look to set the record straight.
Three changes for Liverpool from the weekend, with Wijnaldum, Keita and Jota replacing Milner, Thiago and Roberto Firmino.
The big news of course is Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane are absent through injury and a positive Covid-19 test.
It will see Eder Militao and Nacho form a partnership in central defence, while Karim Benzema – Madrid’s saviour so often this season – starts.
Very rarely have Real Madrid made it so far in the competition and not been considered a serious candidate to win the Champions League. But as with many things in the game, this season has been a little different.
They suffered a shock home defeat to Shakthar Donetsk in the group stages and a draw away at Gladbach, but came round to progress and then knock out Atalanta in the last 16.
It has been part of a recent recovery for Madrid, who could go top of LaLiga this weekend if they win the Clasico and results go their way.
But the immediate focus is gaining an edge over Liverpool, who were considered among the favourites before the almighty slump in form in the league. But history dictates Zinedine Zidane’s men will always be there or there about when it comes to this stage.
A look at those latest odds ahead of tonight’s heavyweight clash, courtesy of Betfair:
Real Madrid to win 19/10
Liverpool to win 7/5
Real Madrid to qualify 13/10
Liverpool to qualify 6/10
Liverpool’s convincing win at Arsenal at the weekend was crucial in restoring confidence for Jurgen Klopp’s men, with the Champions League their only chance of silverware this season.
Central to that was victory was Diogo Jota, who netted the opener and third goal at the Emirates. And now he is eyeing more success down the road for the Reds, starting with tonight.
Champions League nights simply don’t get bigger than this do they?
The first leg of this blockbuster clash is without several blockbuster names though, but more on that as and when we have the teams.
A repeat of the 2018 final awaits, with both sides keen to seize silverware in Europe this season once more.
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