Real Madrid cruised into the Champions League quarter-finals as Liverpool never threatened the three-goal fightback they required in a 1-0 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu.
European champions Madrid had claimed a brilliant 5-2 win in England in the first leg of their last-16 tie, leaving Liverpool a mighty uphill battle in Wednesday’s return match.
The Reds defence – and Alisson in particular – at least gave their team-mates a platform from which to build this time, but the goal threat that had briefly concerned Madrid on Merseyside was less evident.
Eventually, Karim Benzema, that familiar foe, put Jurgen Klopp’s side out of their misery as Madrid continued their bid for yet another crown in their favourite competition of all.
The goalkeepers were the undoubted stars of a goalless first half, with Alisson brilliantly blocking from Vinicius Junior at close quarters and soon touching Eduardo Camavinga’s deflected shot onto the crossbar. A VAR review might have overturned the offside given against Vinicius when he was denied again by Alisson.
Those stops just about kept Liverpool in the tie, but Thibaut Courtois – the hero of last season’s final between the sides – was not to be outdone. His fingertip stop from Darwin Nunez was as impressive as any of Alisson’s saves, and he then beat away a thunderous Cody Gakpo drive.
Federico Valverde ran through early in the second half but scuffed straight at Alisson, with the same man heading over following excellent work on the left from Luka Modric. Benzema also missed the target when well placed on his right foot.
The chances continued to fall Madrid’s way, however, and Benzema made no mistake when Vinicius miscued his finish and instead prodded to his team-mate for an open goal in the 78th minute.
Benzema took a kick in the process, but that was about the extent of Madrid’s concern in a dominant 6-2 aggregate triumph.
What does it mean? Madrid never under threat
Klopp had acknowledged Liverpool would have to be “extremely good” to stand any chance, and they were not that in an attacking sense – particularly in the second half.
Still three goals behind in the tie with 45 minutes to play, the visitors needed to let the handbrake off but instead struggled to pose any sort of threat.
After a James Milner shot in the 37th minute – their eighth of the match – Liverpool went until Harvey Elliott’s tame effort in the 83rd minute before mustering another attempt.
Courtois king again
This was more like the Courtois who made a match-winning nine saves in the Paris final than the man whose early mishap had Liverpool in control of this tie for a time at Anfield.
It may have been comfortable in the end, but Courtois made four crucial saves in the first half when a goal might have invited tension.
Salah so disappointing
Mohamed Salah’s woeful penalty at Bournemouth on Saturday consigned Liverpool to a Premier League defeat, yet at least that registered as an attempt. He did not have a single shot here.
Although Salah created a pair of chances for team-mates, he was also painfully wasteful in the final third, where he misplaced only four passes but seemed to kill momentum each time.
Key Opta Stats:
– Liverpool’s 6-2 aggregate loss to Real Madrid is their heaviest margin of defeat over two legs of a Champions League knockout tie.
– Madrid have now eliminated Liverpool from the Champions League in each of the last three seasons, just the second time that has happened (Atletico Madrid, also by Real Madrid, were eliminated in four straight years)
– Under Klopp, all six of Liverpool’s eliminations from major European competitions have come against Spanish clubs (Sevilla x1, Ateltico Madrid x1, Real Madrid x4).
– Madrid have qualified for their 19th Champions League quarter-final, with only Bayern Munich (21, including 2022-23) reaching more. Madrid have moved one ahead of rivals Barcelona (18).
– Benzema has scored seven Champions League goals against Liverpool, the most of any player. Only Lionel Messi (27) has more goals against English clubs overall in the competition than Benzema (19).
It will be Madrid’s turn to chase a result on Sunday when they go to Barcelona for the Clasico. Liverpool do not play again before the international break, which is followed by a daunting trip to Manchester City.