Liverpool 2-5 Real Madrid: Great goals, goalkeeper screams – and remarkable Real

Seven goals, a turbocharged comeback, brilliant finishes and catastrophic mistakes.

Liverpool’s Champions League round of 16 tie against Real Madrid always promised drama, but few would have expected such a remarkable night at Anfield as the reigning champions cruised to a 5-2 victory and left Jurgen Klopp’s side with a monumental task to save its European. campaign.

Our experts examine the key talking points from an incredible night on Merseyside.

Real’s incredible spirit shines through again

It’s becoming a cliché, but this Real Madrid team really never accepts that they are dead in this competition.

Even when Liverpool were well on top in the early stages, there was little panic from Madrid’s key players. Luka Modric tried to get the ball and slow it down, but it was Vinicius Junior who really got them back in with his superb first goal.

And Madrid’s entire team could then notice that Liverpool did not react well to being withdrawn. After the break, Modric, Karim Benzema, Vinicius Jr, even substitute left-back Nacho were now playing with immense confidence and determination. Their opponents, meanwhile, looked like they knew they were powerless to do anything about it.

Last season, Madrid held off their comeback for the second leg at the Bernabeu, when first Paris Saint-Germain, then Chelsea and finally Manchester City all thought they were in control of a knockout game – until they weren’t.

This time, Carlo Ancelotti’s side completed the entire comeback within an hour and they could then enjoy the closing stages. It was just further confirmation that Madrid know this is their competition.

Dermot Corrigan

The hosts are losing form – and the game

Just as it looked like Liverpool’s performances had turned a corner, the ghosts of this season came back to haunt them.

Much has been made of their poor counter-pressing – being a long way off the pace to sustain their attacks with the same devastating effectiveness – but it’s an important caveat when they look particularly vulnerable.

Having gone behind in the game, Liverpool are understandably pushing forward in search of an equaliser. But keeping a solid defensive structure is crucial when building an attack, and that’s something Liverpool have lacked this season.

Jurgen Klopp’s big night turned into an ordeal (Photo: MB Media/Getty Images)

If ever there was a team to expose this vulnerability, it was the Spanish and European champions. When Madrid were 3-2 up, their ability to attack against Liverpool was clinical and were key components in both of Benzema’s finishes.

This is partly due to world-class attackers on the ball for Madrid, but Liverpool were far too naive, defensively open and easy to play through again.

When they are ahead, Liverpool’s control of the game is often strong. Unfortunately for Klopp’s men, they have not been in front for as long as they would like this season.

Mark Carey

Gomez night to forget

Joe Gomez had a truly fiery night at Anfield. He was involved in all five Madrid goals. First, he was unable to stop Vinicius Jr, whose shot whipped into the corner and dragged Madrid back into the game. Then there was his back pass to Alisson which initially looked like a good recovery until the Brazilian keeper knocked the ball off Vinicius Jr and it rebounded into the gaping net.

At the start of the second half, Gomez’s unnecessary foul led to the set-piece Eder Militao scored from to make it 3-2. Gomez, along with his teammates, looked static and failed to attack the ball as Militao flew at it.

Joe Gomez takes off to let Eder Militao in (Photo: Fantasista/Getty Images)

It almost feels unfair to single out Gomez alone as his teammates didn’t cover themselves in glory. But he played Madrid on the touchline ahead of their fourth goal which denied him, and when Benzema scored his second, Gomez raced past him but didn’t seem to lay a glove on him.

It was a miserable night overall for Liverpool and one Gomez, in particular, will not look back.

Caoimhe O’Neill

A tale of two goalkeeper disasters

Goalkeepers have often made headlines in recent meetings between these teams, with contrasting fortunes for Loris Karius and Thibaut Courtois as Madrid won the 2018 and 2022 Champions League finals.

Courtois enjoyed last May’s final in Paris, but experienced the other side for Liverpool’s second goal. The pitch didn’t help and Dani Carvajal’s backpass was hit quite hard. But there was still no excuse for the awful first touch with his foot, then worse with his knee, which teed up Mohamed Salah for an easy finish.

Courtois looks to control a backpass, with plenty of time to clear…

But the ball bounces up and hits the right knee…

Courtois is wrong-footed and when he falls to his right, the ball bounces away…

Straight into the path of Mohamed Salah, who scores

Gomez may have had a game to forget, but at least he escaped the blame for the night’s second goalkeeping disaster. Gomez’s pass back to Alisson shortly before half-time, with Liverpool leading 2-1, was not too badly weighted, giving the keeper time to pick out a team-mate and launch an attack.

That may have been the problem, though, as Alisson seemed in two minds. Vinicius Jr didn’t make a super intense effort to block, and had actually hit halfway when the ball was hit straight at him. Both then had time to turn around and watch as the ball looped up and landed in the net to make it 2-2.

Alisson tries to play the ball out short from a backpass…

But he hits the ongoing Vinicius Jr…

The ball spins in the air…

And goes into the unguarded net to make it 2-2 on the night

Dermot Corrigan

Vinicius Jr conquers Liverpool (again)

Vinicius Jr briefly became the player with the most goals against Liverpool in European Cup and Champions League history, with five in just four meetings, until Benzema later overtook him.

The Brazilian’s two goals in the first half showcased two very different elements of his game. The first was a sublime pointed effort, with excellent footwork and appreciation of space as he curled the ball around Gomez and inside Alisson’s far post.

Vincius Jr scores his brilliant first goal of the night (Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)

The second was more about his opportunism and work rate, something the youngster has always brought to the team, even before he started scoring regularly two years ago.

Vinicius Jr’s touch chart (below) emphasizes both this work rate – note all the touches in his own half – and his penchant for cutting inside to fire off shots, as he did for his first goal.

His first big European night came when he exploited the space behind and inside Trent Alexander Arnold to score two excellent goals in the 2020-21 Champions League quarter-finals. The winner in last season’s final was also about clever movement and instinctive finishing as he got on the blind side of Alexander-Arnold to finish.

Klopp’s side were aware of the threat tonight and both Jordan Henderson and Fabinho looked to help Alexander Arnold and Gomez in the first half. But still Vincius Jr got ready. Just before half-time, he almost put Rodrygo up to make it 3-2, and just after half-time, he won the free-kick from which Modric picked out Militao to put Madrid ahead.

Dermot Corrigan

Nunez and the art of a back heel finish

It came so early in this chaotic, breathless game that Darwin Nunez’s stunning opening goal almost felt like it belonged in another season by the end of the night.

But amid all the drama, Nunez’s cheeky brilliance shouldn’t be forgotten. The striker is no stranger to a backheel finish – his first goal for Liverpool in the Premier League came against Fulham and was an equally clever touch with the back of his right boot. This one, after an exquisite pass from Mohamed Salah, was even better.

The way Nunez instinctively galloped over the ball and guided it past Courtois was frankly ridiculous.

Darwin Nunez scores with an incredible backheel (Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

He becomes more confident and controlled in the ending. What bodes well for Liverpool is that Nunez spouting off his lines seems to be something he is putting behind him.

It was Liverpool’s fastest goal scored at Anfield in the Champions League and proved he is capable of scoring goals of elite quality on the biggest occasions.

Caoimhe O’Neill

The Kop makes its point to UEFA

“I know our people will give everything,” Klopp declared on the eve of this competition.

On that front, the Liverpool manager can have absolutely no complaints. It was on the pitch rather than off where the hosts were found wanting.

Certainly, the message sent to UEFA and the French authorities in the wake of the publication of the independent report into the chaotic scenes at last season’s Champions League final was deafening.

The evening had started with shouts and cheers for the Champions League anthem followed by chants of “F*** UEFA” from the Kop, and then a series of banners were unfurled after 36 minutes – a number symbolic of how long kick-off in Paris was delayed .

One in the Kop featured the images of UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin and UEFA Events CEO Martin Kallen and called for their resignation. Another simply read: UEFA LIARS.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera were also targeted with a banner reading: “Menteurs” – the French word for liars. After the final they tried to blame ticketless Liverpool supporters.

Liverpool fans protest against UEFA in the first half at Anfield (Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

Another in the Sir Kenny Dalglish Stand was a mock-up of the message UEFA infamously put on the big screen inside the Stade de France that the match was delayed due to fans turning up late: “Due to inept UEFA organization the match was delayed. Further information finds UEFA guilty!” read the banner.

James Pearce

At least Klopp’s right side is clicking

It could still prove to be a problem, barring the mother of all comebacks in Spain in three weeks’ time, but Liverpool’s right flank seems to have found its groove again in attack.

The reliable combination of Salah, Alexander-Arnold and Henderson were in full flow at Anfield as Liverpool consistently targeted the right.

Such was the desire to overload the right flank, 50 per cent of Liverpool’s attacks were down that channel in the first half – the highest proportion in any of their Champions League games this season.

Henderson’s work rate was particularly impressive, with tireless running to plug gaps when Alexander-Arnold went forward, and overlapping runs to draw Madrid defenders out of position which created space for Salah.

It was that move that led to Liverpool’s opener, with Salah finding a pocket of space to play the ball in to Nunez. Salah’s 13th Champions League assist for Liverpool now puts him ahead of any player in the club’s history.

Madrid star man Vinicius Jr was devastating on the left but is widely known to stay high when his team defends – allowing Liverpool to create overloads with little disruption. With Madrid left-back David Alaba forced off after half an hour injured, his replacement Nacho received the same treatment.

It may be too late for their hopes of extending their interest in the Champions League, but as Liverpool push to salvage their season domestically, their right-sided combination at least appears to be clicking again at the right time.

Mark Carey

(Top photo: Alex Livesey – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images))

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