Real Madrid turned the tide in a comprehensive 5-2 win over Liverpool in their Champions League first leg at Anfield on Tuesday night, as both Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema scored a pair of goals.
The rematch of last year’s final – won by Madrid – was a thriller with the 14-time champions scoring five unanswered goals after going 2-0 down to put qualification for the quarter-finals on course.
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“We dedicate this victory to our honorary club president Amancio Amaro (who died on Tuesday),” Benzema said after the match. “This victory is for him. We showed personality, scored goals. We want this Champions League.
“It was a beautiful game. We didn’t start well. After 15 minutes we saw Real Madrid. Football is always difficult. They started the game better than us, supported by the support of their fans. We knew we had to do more and we did it to the end.”
A riveting first half saw Liverpool jump out to a two-goal lead with a fabulous finish from Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah’s strike from close range following a ridiculous blunder by Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
The visitors cut into the deficit before half-time through Vinicius, who cut to the right in the penalty area and curled a perfectly low shot past Alisson to make it 2-1.
Another shocking ball from a keeper led to Madrid’s second as Alisson’s pass out of the back was mishandled and bounced by Vinicius, looping over the Liverpool keeper and rolling into the net to equalize before the break.
Despite the slow start, goals from Eder Militao and Benzema early in the second half put Madrid into a shock 4-2 lead before the hour mark, silencing the Anfield crowd and leaving Jurgen Klopp looking bewildered on the touchline.
Benzema scored his second to end a slender Madrid counterattack, the France forward picking up a pass from Vinicius, sliding left past an onrushing Alisson and burying a shot into the top left corner.
Real Madrid have all but eliminated Liverpool, who conceded five goals in the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history, from the competition ahead of the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 15.
Benzema on scoring his first two goals this season in the Champions League “I have played very little in this Champions League. I have to help my team with goals and assists. I played a good game. I had a lot of games last season. and I had an injury in the World Cup. It’s always difficult to get to your top level, but little by little I’m getting better.”
Vinicius’ opener changes the game. “A goal can change a game and it happened today.”
When asked if the draw all but settled, he said:
“Many things can happen in football. We are on the right track, but we will have another big game in Madrid.”