Liverpool were sensationally beaten 5-2 by Real Madrid despite being two goals up early in their Champions League round-of-16 first leg at Anfield.
Vinicius Junior scored twice before the interval to cancel out Liverpool’s early advantage and three unanswered goals in the second half – two of them scored by Karim Benzema – condemned Jurgen Klopp’s side to their heaviest home defeat in Champions League history.
The Reds had threatened to overwhelm the world champions, their conquerors in the Champions League final in May, during a blistering opening period. Darwin Nunez’s flick put them in front inside four minutes before Mohamed Salah seized on a Thibaut Courtois error.
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With Real Madrid rocking, they instead showed that characteristic quality and calm, Vinicius rifling the ball low into the far corner of Alisson’s net to pull one back, before the goalkeeper replicated the mistake by Courtois by gifting the Brazilian his second of the night.
Eder Militao’s header from Luka Modric’s free-kick gave Carlo Ancelotti’s side the lead early in the second half before Benzema’s shot deflected off Joe Gomez and beyond Alisson to silence Anfield. When Benzema later added a brilliant second, Liverpool were broken.
The result leaves Klopp and his players needing a miracle at the Bernabeu next month. The more immediate concern is that after a couple of confidence-boosting Premier League victories, the fragility that has marred Liverpool’s season has been exposed once more.
Carragher: ‘Shambolic’ and a ‘disgrace’
Speaking to CBS, Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher was scathing about Liverpool’s second-half capitulation. “That was shambolic from Liverpool,” he said.
“Embarrassing. We have made excuses for them all season, but that was a disgrace in that second half. To lose that half 3-0 when you’re attacking the Kop at 2-2 and in a knockout game. Shambolic.”
Klopp taking positives from horror defeat
“Everything was pretty obvious,” said Klopp. “We gave all five goals away. It means we could have done better there. In our situation, it is really important we see positive steps and the first half was, besides the two goals we conceded, pretty much the best we played all season.
“The second goal was slapstick, equalised our second goal. The first goal we have to defend better, there are enough players around. It is just a world-class moment from Vinicius as well but obviously, we can defend better.
“Half-time was rather positive, we have to play in this and that spaces, and then we start with a third goal which is a horrible goal and pretty much the game-changer. We lost the momentum in that moment and never got it back.
“In the second half, the game was the game Real Madrid wanted to play. The other goals, one is deflected and they are not really well defended. We lose the ball in the wrong moment which is a problem for Real Madrid with the counter-attacking threat they have.”
Asked whether the heavy defeat could destroy the confidence of his players, Klopp was adamant that he would not let this happen. “That is absolutely not allowed,” he added.
“I told the boys, one result, the opposite of what we wanted, but a defeat is only a defeat if you do not learn from it, if you do not learn that the start was outstanding and was us in a nutshell, so if we allow this one game to be influential we are really silly.
“Yes, we have things to improve. Third goal, massively. First goal, massively. But the intensity, the effort we showed, the football, was everything we want to see so we have to make sure we keep it; 5-2 could be damaging but I have to make sure that does not happen.”
Ancelotti: ‘We kept our cool’
“What happened was we suffered early on, they made it hard for us at the start of game,” explained Ancelotti. “You cannot start games like that. Fortunately, what happened is what happens quite often with our team. We kept cool, kept our heads, gradually showed our quality.
“We were very efficient in front of goal when we managed to break out from their pressure. We improved our defensive game because in the first half we suffered a lot of pressure from Liverpool. Their players up front were very dangerous. Our players were very accurate.
“We have the advantage in the tie in this first 90 minutes. Now we need to control the second half of the tie in Madrid. Liverpool created lot of problems early on and we have to expect the same in the second leg. Unfortunately, I cannot say the tie is decided yet.”
Player of the match – Vinicius Junior
Liverpool were enjoying themselves until Vinicius intervened, his first goal arrowing into the corner of the net and sowing the seeds of doubt that his team went on to exploit. By the end, he was tormenting Trent Alexander-Arnold. It was a stunning performance.
“Vinicius, right now, in my personal opinion, is the most decisive player in world football,” said Ancelotti. “The player who can make the biggest difference. If he keeps this consistency, how he causes problems, runs at people, let us hope he continues in this vein.”
Liverpool’s miserable defeat in statsLiverpool conceded five goals in a European game at Anfield for the first time ever while it was just third time this century they shipped five or more goals in a home game in all competitions.Real Madrid are the first team in Champions League history to come from two goals down and win by a three-goal margin.This was only the fourth time a Jurgen Klopp side shipped five or more goals in a home game in all competitions, after Mainz in 2006 (1-6 v Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga), Borussia Dortmund in 2009 (1-5 v Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga) and Liverpool in 2019 (5-5 v Arsenal).At 22 years and 224 days old, Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior is the youngest visiting player to score twice against Liverpool at Anfield in major European competition since Johan Cruyff in December 1966 for Ajax in the European Cup (19y 233d).Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has scored six goals against Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League, more than any other player.What’s next?
Liverpool return to Premier League action on Saturday with a trip to Crystal Palace, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 7.45pm. Jurgen Klopp’s side then host Wolves on Wednesday, March 1; kick-off 8pm.
Real Madrid’s run of crucial fixtures continues on Saturday, with a LaLiga game at home to neighbours Atletico Madrid; kick-off 5.30pm. The European champions then host bitter rivals Barcelona on Thursday, March 2 in the Copa del Rey semi-finals; kick-off 8pm.