The Reds confounded pre-match expectations as they emerged a limp side at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, failing to get out of the blocks as Real went 2-0 up by half-time.
Jurgen Klopp recognised an error in his team selection before then, withdrawing Naby Keita in the 43rd minute, but the damage was done, and despite Mohamed Salah scoring an away goal after the break, it was soon cancelled out.
Liverpool now need to score at least two in the second leg at Anfield on April 14 with the wounds of their Madrid humbling still fresh, though no doubt parallels will be drawn to similar escapes against Dortmund and Barcelona.
Wijnaldum wore the captain’s armband on the night, and the Dutchman was the only player involved to take to social media after the game, insisting “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”:
The away goal does give the Reds optimism, but the manner in which they allowed Real to play their game – particularly in the first half – remains disappointing, as Wijnaldum told LFCTV.
“If you see how we gave the balls away and how we played when we had the ball, it was not good enough,” he explained.
“When we recovered the ball we gave it away quickly, and that’s why we had to run a lot. That’s why the first half was really intense, really heavy and hard.
“But I think it was more because of the way we were playing. That killed our first half.”
This is especially frustrating given how well Liverpool played on their way to a 3-0 victory at Arsenal on Saturday, with Wijnaldum pinpointing their use of the ball as the difference.
“At the weekend when we had the ball we were really good, we played good football, when we lost the ball the counter-pressing was good,” he continued.
“Today, in a lot of moments the counter-press was good but when we had the ball, we didn’t keep it long enough to come into the game.
“That brought them into the game, because they recovered the ball real quick and that’s how they created chances.”
The Dutchman and his team-mates will be clinging to Salah’s goal as motivation for the second leg, and his assessment is that “it’s not impossible,” but “it’s difficult”:
“It’s always good to have an away goal. Unfortunately, they scored one after we scored, I would say it would be easier if it was 2-1 or we scored for 2-2.
“But now we have to score two and make sure we don’t concede.
“It’s not impossible, as we’ve shown in the previous years, but it’s difficult.”
It isn’t blind hope, clearly, but the odds are stacked against Liverpool – and given they were seen as favourites after Real lost Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane in the buildup, the loss was hugely deflating.
That no other player addressed fans after the game says it all about the mood in the camp, and it will be Klopp’s priority now to turn that around as they take on both Aston Villa and Real at Anfield in the next week.