Spanish giants Real Madrid extinguished Liverpool’s Champions League hopes with a dominant display.
On a night where Liverpool needed nothing short of a miracle to clear a three goal deficit, they produced few clear goalscoring opportunities as they meekly went out of Europe’s elite competition.
Now Jurgen Klopp’s team face a real battle to finish in the Premier League’s top four and thus qualify for sixth straight season.
They miraculously pulled it off two seasons ago, but without Sadio Mane, a lack of confidence and inconsistency, the signs don’t look good.
And they were brutally exposed as Madrid could have easily scored six or seven and went close on a number of occasions.
Liverpool were hanging on, especially in the opening minutes of the match, as the first-half was all Madrid.
Modric and Camavinga go close
A rare mistake from Dani Carvajal after just six minutes, saw the ball loop back from the halfway line towards the Los Blancos goal.
Mohamed Salah picked up the ball, before teeing up Darwin Núñez, but the Uruguayan could only drive his shot straight at Thibaut Courtois.
Moments later, Vinicius Junior, almost beat Alisson at the back post, but the Reds keeper stood firm to keep out the Madrid star.
The next chance was almost certainly going to be a beautiful goal, as Eduardo Camavinga let rip from 30 yards, but the ball took a slight deflection off the glutes of James Milner, and Alisson expertly tipped the ball onto the crossbar.
Liverpool breathed a sigh of relief.
That would have been game over there and then.
It was then the midfield orchestrator of Luka Modric, who shot from long-range but his effort went narrowly over the bar.
Liverpool then had a couple of decent chances, as Núñez almost curled in, but was denied by Courtois.
Shortly after, Cody Gakpo, on the right hand side drove the ball at the Belgian keeper but he was alert to the danger.
Liverpool did well to limp into half-time level as even James Milner, the old warhorse was on hand to intercept a dangerous Madrid cross, with Karim Benzema lurking.
It was fair to say, that Madrid dominated proceedings and laid siege to the Liverpool goal, who were holding on at times, and Carlo Ancelotti’s team were unlucky not to have at least broken the deadlock.
Valverde spurns chances
Shortly after half-time, Federico Valverde ran in one-on-one but was shut out by the feet of Alisson.
The follow up from Benzema was also easily scooped by the ever-reliable Reds stopper.
Another chance came for the Uruguayan, after great work on the far-left hand side by the skilful and talented Modric, looking better than ever at 37.
But he headed over the crossbar when well placed.
Vinicius then slipped the ball through to Benzema who blasted into the stands.
Although, he more than made up for it with his next opportunity.
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Camavinga played the ball through to Benzema, who played in Vinicius who somehow swung and miskicked.
The ball then bizarrely bounced off Virgil van Dijk and into the path of Benzema, who swept home, making no mistake from that kind of range.
1-0 Real and 6-2 aggregate – Game, Set and Match Madrid.
There could have been another in the final minute, as Rodrygo’s shot looked to have hit the arm of Núñez in the penalty area.
But after a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) check, referee Felix Zwayer declared no penalty for the home side, as the 14-time European champions cruised through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, once again.
‘Decisive week for us’ – as Klopp focuses on top four battle
Having lost for a third consecutive season in Europe to the same opponent, the Reds chief praised Ancelotti’s side.
“We came here with the backpack of a three-goal difference. You need a special performance and we didn’t show that tonight.
“Real Madrid were in control of the game. They had the better chances and Ali had to make two sensational saves to keep us in the match,” he said.
The defending champions showed a touch of class in playing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ for the away supporters.
This was warmly received by the boss.
“People told me after the game. It is a really nice gesture.
“We are two heavyweights who meet each other frequently. I think it’s clear we respect each other a lot,” said the German.
He then spoke of how critical the club’s upcoming matches are if they are to stand any chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
“With the history we have in this competition, we start with the idea of winning it, and want to be part of it every year,” said Klopp.
“That’s a massive task for us, we all know that.
“When we come back from the international break we have a decisive week ahead of us, with: City, Chelsea and Arsenal, which will then probably define what we get out of our season.”
James Spencer’s Verdict
Having watched the game live, the most frustrating thing about this Liverpool performance, is that they were too slow in moving the ball.
When you are three goals down, they should have shifted the ball quickly and tried to catch Madrid off guard.
But there was a lack of urgency, and Diogo Jota, Salah and Trent Alexander Arnold, were all guilty of poor passes, and the ball simply went out of play, instead of reaching its intended target.
The chances were squandered, right when Liverpool could have outnumbered the hosts on the counter attack.
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In that sense, there appeared to be a lack of belief from Klopp’s dressing room that they could cause an upset.
Madrid were better in every department, just as in the first leg.
It now appears that big changes are on the way at the club, but so much rests on whether they even qualify for next season’s Champions League.
That will dictate the calibre of players, they can bring in, like a Jude Bellingham.
Although, if the young England star was watching this, for sure he would want to join Madrid over Liverpool.
The pressure is on Klopp and the players to deliver in these next three games.
There can be no more slip ups between now and the end of the season.