Real Madrid roars again to thrash Liverpool
Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema scored twice as Real Madrid produced another stunning 2-0 Champions League comeback to defeat Liverpool 5-2 in the first leg of their round of 16 match at Anfield on Tuesday.
Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah had given the hosts a perfect start in a repeat of last season’s Champions League final.
But Vinicius scored twice to equalize at half-time and, after Eder Militao had given Carlo Ancelotti’s men the lead, Benzema’s brace put the reigning champions on course for the quarter-finals.
“We suffered a lot at the beginning, you can’t start games like that, but luckily the team had a cool head,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said.
“Up front today we were very efficient. Every time we broke Liverpool’s pressure we were able to create chances.”
The defeat compounds a disastrous season for Liverpool after coming so close to an unprecedented trophy quadruple last year.
Jurgen Klopp’s men languish in eighth place in the Premier League and it now looks like they have no realistic chance of winning silver this season.
“I think Carlo thinks the tie is over and I think right now too,” Klopp said. “In three weeks we will arrive at the game and we will take risks.
“We go there and try to win the game. If it’s possible, I don’t know, but we’ll try.”
Madrid’s 1-0 victory when the teams met in Paris last May was overshadowed by chaotic scenes outside the Stade de France that put the lives of fans at risk.
Liverpool supporters responded by drowning out the Champions League anthem with a chorus of boos, while a series of banners in the Kop stand pointed to UEFA and the French authorities.
Once the action started, the players produced the expected spectacle of a clash between two clubs with a total of 20 European Cups.
Liverpool briefly turned back the clock to some of their best nights with Klopp exploding outside the blocks.
Núñez produced a magical finish to send Salah’s pass home in four minutes.
Madrid overcame two goal deficits against Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City on their way to their 14th European Cup last season and was forced to do it again by their normally solid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
A loose touch from the Belgian gave Liverpool the second on a plate as the Egyptian became the Reds’ all-time top scorer in European competition with 42.
But the defending champions again displayed remarkable comeback powers to turn the tie around in just over 30 minutes of play.
“Obviously we didn’t expect to start the way we did, but down 2-0 I thought back to City’s semi-final game last year in the hope that we could do the same,” Ancelotti added.
“It turned out even better.”
Vinicius was the match winner in last season’s final and now has five goals in four games against Liverpool.
The Brazilian finished off into the far corner to start the comeback in the 21st minute.
Another calamitous mistake by one of the world’s best goalkeepers gave Madrid an equalizer when Alisson Becker’s clearance attempt bounced off Vinicius and into an unprotected net.
Liverpool’s leaky defense broke down again early in the second period when Militao received a free header to convert Luka Modric’s free-kick.
Fortune was also on the side of the Spanish giants for the fourth goal when Benzema’s shot deflected off Joe Gomez to strand Alisson.
No luck in the visitors’ fifth, as a clinical move by the team tore Liverpool to pieces.
Modric burst into midfield and fed Vinicius, who helped Benzema coolly round Alisson and into the top corner.
The teams meet again on March 15, but the second leg now seems little more than a formality on a night when Madrid showed why they are still the kings of Europe.
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