It took them three years, but Real Madrid are finally in the Champions League semifinals again for the first time since winning the competition in 2018. They beat Liverpool in the final that year by 3-1, the same scoreline that they earned in the first leg of this tie against the same opponent, which eventually proved enough to see them through.
Too little, too late from Liverpool
In all fairness, Liverpool looked like the better team in this game, but an appalling performance in the first half of the first leg in Madrid, along with chances squandered in the rematch, cost them all they had to give in the Champions League this term. On that day, things took an upturn after manager Jurgen Klopp brought on Thiago Alcantara in the place of Naby Keita just before halftime, and from that point on they were an equal rival in this clash at least, but the damage had already been done. They were 2-0 down, and the goal from Mohamed Salah which gave them brief hope was followed by Vinicius Junior’s second on the night to set the score which stood on aggregate for the rest of the tie.
Things would probably have been different had Salah managed to take the clear-cut chance he had in the second minute at Anfield, or had Thibaut Courtois failed to reach James Milner’s top-corner effort soon afterwards, but all such ifs and buts are now pointless, as Klopp himself admitted after the match.
Liverpool looked pretty good from the first whistle this time around, with Milner’s presence in midfield giving them a strong physical edge. They had more of the ball and kept it mostly in the opposition half. They made life very difficult for the 13-time European champions for large spells of the game, stifling the influence of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, so deadly in the first game, completely. Nathaniel Phillips put in a surprisingly good performance against Karim Benzema and showed signs of leadership, determination and desire to get the ball forward as quickly as possible.
And yet, in the end, it wasn’t enough. Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino joined Salah and Milner in failing to score from promising situations, and the net behind Courtois remained undisturbed.