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There was no famous European comeback for Liverpool this time. Instead it was another example of why Real Madrid are so good at winning the Champions League.
Karim Benzema got the only goal of the night to secure a place in the quarter-finals for Carlo Ancelotti’s side. But, in truth, it never looked in any real danger in a tie between two sides steeped in history in this competition.
The Spanish giants had a 5-2 lead from the first leg and they provided the perfect performance to protect it. They’ve lifted this trophy 14 times. You are reminded about that all around the outside of the Bernabeu, even as it goes through a huge rebuild.
Liverpool have a storied history in the European Cup but it’s nothing compared to Real’s.
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Their current squad is full of players who have lifted the trophy multiple times, too. They just know how to win it. They knew how to see this game out as well.
Carlo Ancelotti is aware more than most the type of comebacks Liverpool can conjure up. He was in the AC Milan dugout in Istanbul in 2005. But the wily old veteran wasn’t going to let it happen to this Real side. He ensured they weren't complacent.
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The opening 45 minutes was open but there was no panic when Liverpool had positive moments. It meant the hosts weren’t swept up in any emotion. They had missed chances to kill the tie but, again, they didn’t get flustered.
Jurgen Klopp couldn’t do much about it either as he watched his side’s last chance of silverware this season disappear while the minutes ticked away. He was bold in his team selection as he started 37-year-old James Milner in midfield alongside Fabinho in the absence of his injured stars in the role.
It allowed him to play four attackers but it also showed his midfield is in need of a rebuild as big as the stadium they were playing in is undergoing. That left them very open and the brilliant midfield trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Eduardo Camavinga benefitted from that.
Vinicius Jr and Camavinga brought stunning saves from Alisson, who was Liverpool’s star performer. The Reds were vulnerable but also brought a threat. Darwin Nunez wasted an early opportunity while Diogo Jota miskicked after great work from Mo Salah.
Thibaut Courtois was needed to deny Nunez and Cody Gakpo later in the half. Liverpool were looking to replicate their ridiculous comeback win over Barcelona back in 2019 when they overturned a three-goal deficit at Anfield.
But this was always going to be a much tougher task for a side far from the form of that swashbuckling outfit from four years ago. Real should have taken the lead on the night but Federico Valverde wasted a glorious chance soon after the restart after a mistake from Andy Robertson.
Some magic from Modric teed up Valverde but he headed over before Benzema blasted one into the Madrid sky. Liverpool’s hopes were fading as the clock ticked along and Real pinged passes about to take any momentum out of the game.
At times the stadium almost fell silent as those in attendance just watched the home side manage the game so comfortably. Benzema got the goal to rubber stamp the result with 12 minutes to go. Virgil van Dijk had come across to block him but his tackle fell to Vinicius Jr. The winger lost his footing but still managed to poke the ball across the area for the Frenchman to fire home.
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- Liverpool FC
- Real Madrid FC
- Champions League
- Jurgen Klopp
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