Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool
Real Madrid have grabbed a big advantage in the Champions League quarter-finals after taking Liverpool to task tonight in the first leg at home.
This was the first meeting between the two sides since the 2018 Champions League final which Real Madrid won 3-1, and while Liverpool head coach Jurgen Klopp played down any thoughts of revenge, Los Blancos were clearly up for continuing their dominance over the English champions and matched the 2018 score in style.
Real were without Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane tonight, and Ramos will also be unavailable for the second leg. But Liverpool didn’t lay a glove on the Spaniards’ defence as first-half goals from Vinicius and Marco Asensio put Los Blancos in charge.
The Reds came out fighting in the second half; Mo Salah halved the deficit but the brilliant Vinicius restored Real’s two-goal lead.
In Champions League 2021 results elsewhere, tournament favourites Manchester City beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1.
Highlights of the game
Real striker Karim Benzema has been on fire in recent weeks, and he fired in a warning shot with just two minutes on the clock, turning smartly and shooting to give Alisson an early save to make.
The pace and skill of Ferland Mendy gave Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold plenty to think about and the Real wing-back beat his marker to cross for Vinicius to head just wide.
But Vinicius got his opening goal, with 27 minutes on the clock, when he latched on to a brilliant through ball from Toni Kroos before setting himself and firing coolly past Alisson.
Los Blancos were well on top, and Benzema had a decent penalty shout when he collided with Ozan Kabak but the ref waved the French striker’s appeals away.
But the Spaniards pressed on and got their reward when Marco Asensio doubled the lead with a similar goal to the first.
Kroos lofted a lovely ball forward which Alexander-Arnold could only head into the path of Asensio and he lifted the ball over the advancing Alisson before nudging the ball home. It was a beautifully simple goal for Real but a nightmare for Alexander-Arnold who has recently lost his England place.
The Reds came into the game on the back of a resounding 3-0 victory over Arsenal, but they were flat throughout the first half as Los Blancos went into the break with a deserved 2-0 lead. It could have been more when Asensio seized on a Kabak error, but his shot rolled narrowly wide.
Klopp had work to do at half-time, and he clearly made an impact as, not only did his side register their opening shot on 51 minutes, they grabbed a crucial away goal. Diogo Jota’s shot was blocked by Luka Modric and Salah hammered in the rebound to drag Liverpool back into the tie.
But any hopes Liverpool had of turning the first leg on its head were quickly quashed by Vinicius who added his second to make it 3-1. Once again, Alexander-Arnold was left watching as the Real striker slid a shot through the legs of Nathaniel Phillips and into the net.
Liverpool didn’t have a single shot in the opening 45 minutes while Real Madrid registered eight and four on target. And this was the first time the Reds have conceded twice in the first half of a Champions League knockout game since the 2005 final against AC Milan.
The Reds made more of a fight of it in the second half and finished with six shots to Real’s 15 and one to seven on target.
The victory was Real Madrid’s fourth in succession against Liverpool and Los Blancos extend their winning run in all competitions to five.
According to the pre-match Champions League 2021 betting odds here at SBOTOP the Reds were more likely to win the 2021 competition than Real Madrid but a two-goal lead has changed all that, though Liverpool’s away goal gives them some hope.
The second leg takes place next Wednesday at Anfield, but before that there is the small matter of El Clasico on Saturday night when Barcelona visit Madrid. Both teams still hope to chase down Atletico Madrid in the race for the La Liga title.
Before these two teams meet again Liverpool have a testing match against Aston Villa to cope with as they continue their push for a Premier League top-four place. The way their defence was cut open in the first half tonight, the Reds will be hoping Villa’s Jack Grealish fails a fitness test!
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