Liverpool needed a miracle tonight. It says everything about the dynasty Jurgen Klopp has shaped at Anfield that many thought they might secure one. After all, this is a club that has forged a reputation on moments of inspiration in this competition.
But on this night, in a 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid, they exited the Champions League at the round of 16 stage with a whimper rather than a brave, attacking roar. The 5-2 scoreline from the first leg was a bridge too far, with Carlos Ancelotti’s reigning champions reaching the quarter finals.
Mohamed Salah was nearly gifted an opportunity to give his side an early lead. A slip from Antonio Rudiger allowed the Egyptian to play in Darwin Nunez. The striker drew a good save from Thibaut Courtois. It would not be the last time the 30-year-old shot-stopper was called into action in a frantic first half. He was called into action on a number of occasions, with a particularly impressive save from a Cody Gakpo strike.
Liverpool’s Alisson was also busy and he fared much better here than he did in shipping five goals during a first leg to forget. Toni Kroos’ blast was pounded away, as was a point-blank strike from Vinicius Jr. The best of the bunch was probably the Brazil goalkeeper’s acrobatic dive to deny Eduardo Camavinga’s left-footed curler.
Karim Benzema bags his 89th goal in the #UCL to take the game away from a lacklustre Liverpool at the Bernabeu! 🙌
Luka Modric offered his customary reminder that, even at 37, he is still capable of world class moments. An impetuous flick over the head of Trent Alexander-Arnold will have impressed GIF makers the world over. The pitch-perfect cross to Valverde that followed should have netted him an assist, but the header was off-target.
Speaking of this era’s football icons, it was the great Karim Benzema who put his side into an eventual lead. A deflected pass to Vinicius saw the Brazilian scramble to return it. The France forward then swept the ball into an unguarded net to give Los Blancos the lead. Benzema limped away from the scene, and the pitch, with Ancelotti protecting him ahead of El Clasico on Sunday. Rodrygo would replace the 35-year-old.
You don’t win the Champions League with performances like this. Klopp and many of these Liverpool players know that very well, having lifted the trophy in 2019. The fact the Reds, who lost to tonight’s opponents in the 2022 final, could not find even the gentle resistance of a consolation goal is indicative of their plight. This is a team in transition for whom, the odd 7-0 victory over historic rivals aside, this season has been a struggle. On this evidence, their next Champions League final is a little way off yet.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change