swinging Real Madrid from 2-0 to 2-5
A murderous pace, individual class, monstrous goalkeeper flatteries and magnificent goals: Liverpool-Real Madrid in the Champions League eighth finals had it all on Tuesday night. After ninety flashy minutes, title-holder Real Madrid went away with a 5-2 victory.
The clash between the European powers at Anfield, a replay of last season’s final, was graced early on by a fabulous goal from Darwin Núñez. The Uruguayan striker, quickly worn out for mis-buy after a disappointing first half at Liverpool, struck in the fourth minute.
After good cross work from Mohamed Salah, Núñez had emerged in front of the enemy goal to pass goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with a chop behind his supporting leg. It was his tenth goal in seventeen Champions League games.
After Salah nearly crowned a strong move by Cody Gakpo, who like fellow Orange international Virgil van Dijk started in the starting lineup, with a goal, Liverpool soon ran out to 2-0. That was due to the first of two goalkeeping blunders in the first half, in this case by Real Madrid goalie Thibaut Courtois.
The Belgian goalkeeper seemed to have a back pass from one of his defenders under control, but as the ball clumsily bounced off his knee, the nearby Salah had an outside chance. The Egyptian did not hesitate and poked the ball.
Becker also blunders
Real Madrid did not let that lousy start put them off the field. On the contrary, the Spanish response did not take long to arrive. It was a flash of class from Vinícius Júnior, who, between three English defenders, found the far corner behind Alisson Becker: 2-1.
Like Courtois, Becker is among the better goalkeepers in Europe. But like Courtois, the Brazilian went horribly wrong. After a pass from Joe Gomez, Becker decided to play back to his teammate. He counted outside the onrushing Vinícius, who got the ball against him, ensuring the equalizer.
Just when the 50,000-plus fans at Anfield thought they could catch their breath, just before halftime, Real Madrid almost scored again. Vinícius had an eye for the free Rodrygo after a lightning-fast breakaway, but an excellent last-minute intervention by Andrew Robertson prevented another goal.
Real switches on
Right after the break, the Madrilenians found an even higher gear. First there was a cracking header goal by Éder Militão, after a free kick by Luka Modrić, and then a somewhat fortunate goal by Karim Benzema, whose shot went in through the back of Gomez.
As the home crowd fell silent, Real Madrid, which is eight points behind leaders Barcelona in the Spanish league, realized it could inflict further damage on Liverpool in the remainder of the second half.
Carlo Ancelotti’s team started playing soccer with increasing confidence and imposed its will on Liverpool. The 5-2 was the result of a tight counter. Modrić captured the ball and Vinícius served Benzema, who remained cool and scored his second goal.
Never at home five goals against
It was the first time Liverpool had ever conceded five goals against in a European home game. Only in the famous ‘fog match’ in December 1966 was the English defense once passed five times in a European context. That was in Amsterdam, where Johan Cruijff’s Ajax were too strong 5-1.