Liverpool let Real Madrid back into their Champions League round-of-16 first leg with some disastrous defending before Los Blancos put them to the sword at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp let out a wry chuckle as he commented on Liverpool’s defending after they were ripped apart by Real Madrid in the Champions League.
The Reds led 2-0 with less than a quarter of an hour played thanks to Darwin Nunez’s opener and Mohamed Salah’s opportunistic strike after Thibaut Courtois’ error. But Los Blancos roared back at Anfield as Vinicius Junior struck twice – his second came after a clanger from Alisson – and the teams entered the interval all square.
The second half brought a trademark European masterclass by the 14-time continental kings, who scored three times without response to seal a 5-2 aggregate lead to take into the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu. Eder Militao’s thunderous header put Real Madrid ahead of the first time just seconds after half-time before the evergreen Karim Benzema scored twice to silence the Anfield faithful.
Despite the scoreline, Klopp was very impressed by what he saw from his players in the opening stages, but he could not help but laugh at their disastrous defending for one of Real Madrid’s goals – believed to be Vinicius’ first of the night – during his post-match interview with BT Sport.
“The beginning was outstanding,” the German manager said. “It was us in a nutshell. It was perfect, exactly how we wanted to play. The whole first half was good, besides the [Real Madrid] goals. The first goal, we became slightly passive higher up the pitch, we weren’t chasing them. The second goal is slapstick. It shouldn’t happen, can happen, 2-2.”
Peter Byrne/PA Wire)
Regarding Vinicius’ first goal, Klopp said: “We have five or six players and no challenge. That can’t happen. We were passive until the ball arrived there.”
Liverpool will need to produce arguably their greatest-ever European comeback to reach the Champions League quarter-finals. Their task is made even harder by the fact Real Madrid have defeated them in four of their last five meetings. The Spanish giants won the 2018 final 3-1, beat Liverpool via the same scoreline in the 2020/21 quarter-finals and won last season’s final 1-0. The other result between the two clubs was a goalless draw at Anfield as Liverpool were knocked out of the competition.
“We will go there and play a football game,” Klopp said of the second leg. “It will be a massive challenge. But we have to play in the Premier League first and make sure we learn from this game.”
Before the second leg on 15 April, Liverpool face Crystal Palace, Wolves, Manchester United and Wolves in the Premier League, giving them plenty of time to restore their confidence after a painful night at Anfield.