Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid were terrific as they beat 2019 champions Liverpool 3-1 at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano in Madrid on Tuesday night to go into the 2nd leg with a nice 2-goal cushion in the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League quarterfinals first leg.
Vinicius Junior was exemplary once again as his brace propelled Madrid to the victory over the English champions.
Real Madrid were missing their first-choice centre-back pairing, but always looked threatening on the attack with the young talents they had on the pitch. Karim Benzema was outrunning most of Liverpool’s defence and quickly winning the ball back up the pitch to maintain pressure on Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Much of the damage was done in the first half after Vinicius Junior’s beautiful goal that saw him bring down the ball superbly on his chest as German Toni Kroos picked him out with a perfect long pass and a Marco Asensio close-range finish following a defensive error by under-fire Trent Alexander-Arnold, saw Los Blancos go 2-0 up before the break.
Liverpool came out with a little more intent in the second half as the Reds managed to pull one back just 6 minutes into the 2nd half to pick up an away goal, which kept them more than alive in the tie.
Egypt’s Mohamed Salah was the man again who scored for the English champions as he netted his 27th goal in all competitions this season.
The Reds tried to push on and score a second but were caught out on the break by Real Madrid who swiftly passed the ball around as Vinicius Junior scored again to finish off the first leg.
The Brazilian was picked out by Luka Modric and the youngster made no mistake with his first-time hit to beat Alisson Becker’s left side as the ball found the side netting to put Madrid up 3-1 in the 65th minute.
Liverpool need a big comeback at Anfield next week to qualify for the semifinals of the Champions League.
“If you want to go to the semifinal, you have to earn the right to do so,” a disappointed Klopp said. “We didn’t do that tonight, especially in the first half.
“We just didn’t play good enough football to cause Real Madrid more problems. We made it too easy for them.
“The only good thing I can say, apart from the goal, is it’s only the first half of the tie. We didn’t deserve a lot more but that one goal and the second half was OK. It gives us a lifeline.”
Just to put things into perspective of how dominant Real were in the first half – Liverpool failed to have single effort on goal in the first half of a Champions League game for the first time since 2014!
Real Madrid have progressed from 15 of their last 16 Champions League knockout matches after winning the opening leg, only failing to do so against Ajax in the 2018-19 last 16 so the odds are very much in favour of Zinedine Zidane’s side.
Can Liverpool do what they did to Barcelona or will this be the correction time? Next week’s second leg is set up to be a thriller.