Vinicius Junior scored twice as Real Madrid made Liverpool pay for more defensive errors on Tuesday, a 3-1 win putting them in sight of the Champions League semi-finals. Both Vinicius and Marco Asensio took advantage of the first half after flexing behind Liverpool’s makeshift back line before a simple move from a throw-in gave Vinicius a simple finish in the second. Mohamed Salah’s strike shortly after the interval briefly made it a game at Valdebebas, with an away goal certainly a significant consolation for Liverpool for the second leg at Anfield next week.
But without fans and with a miserable recent record at home, Jurgen Klopp will know his side have everything they can do to prevent his side’s season from becoming all about making the top four in the Premier League.
“We didn’t play well enough, that’s my first concern,” said Klopp. “We didn’t deserve to win tonight, but the good news is there’s another game.
“We are going to fight, 3-1 is not good, but we have a chance.”
With the exception of two spells after half-time and at the finish, as their opponents clung to what they had, Liverpool were overpowered by Real Madrid, whose only disappointment might be missing a clearer margin before the return in eight days’ time.
Before that, they will face Barcelona on Saturday and this result, their fifth consecutive victory, should be another huge boost in morale ahead of what will be a crucial meeting in the La Liga title race.
“Nothing is close, nothing is won,” said Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane. “We are alive in two competitions and we will continue to fight. We will start the second leg as if it was 0-0 because it will be another very difficult game.”
Madrid were without Sergio Ramos, who was screaming throughout his squad from the stands, while Raphael Varane tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday morning meant both sides were lining up repaired hind legs.
The last time these two clubs met, Ramos dislocated Salah’s shoulder and Madrid won their 13th European Cup, but Klopp insisted there was no desire for revenge in the game. spirit of its players.
They could have taken an extra shot as Madrid were superior in the first half, more controlled in possession and more aggressive outside. Liverpool seemed caught between trying to match Madrid’s intensity and slowing the game down to gain a foothold.
Kroos runs the show
In the end, they didn’t do either, as the openings came early. Luka Modric wanted a penalty after being cut just outside the box and Trent Alexander-Arnold was beaten too easily by Ferland Mendy, whose cross was headed right next to Vinicius.
The excellent Toni Kroos had space at the base of the midfielder to dictate the tempo and it was a pair of arrow balls ahead of the German that put Madrid in the driver’s seat.
The first, he shot between Alexander-Arnold and Nat Phillips for scamping Vinicius, who brilliantly managed to get the ball past his opponents and shoot low into Liverpool’s net.
Seven minutes later, Kroos started again, this time using a misdirected Alexander-Arnold header, locating Asensio, who lifted Alisson Becker to leave an open net.
A full stadium would have given Madrid some momentum, but there was still a quivering buzz, as their substitutes clapped louder and the players pressed faster and passed harder.
Liverpool were on half-time but the furious Klopp couldn’t wait, pulling Naby Keita three minutes to go and sending Thiago Alcantara in his place.
The break had an effect briefly, with Liverpool fending off a goal five minutes later as Georginio Wijnaldum tore apart and Diogo Jota’s shot gently deflected into the path of Salah, who passed over the crossbar.
For a while the game hung in the balance. Kroos shot and Sadio Mane almost completed a break to the left. Asensio should have finished for Madrid but chose to pass and he was blocked.
Still, another Madrid chance was not far off, as Liverpool failed to respond to a right-hand throw-in and Modric was allowed to drift inside, pushing Vinicius aside in a second.
Liverpool pushed for another away goal in the dying minutes, but Madrid were not troubled. It is the Spanish cheers that are heard when the whistle blows.
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