After the promise of a blistering, two-goal start, Liverpool withered and allowed the quality of Real Madrid to shine through, losing 5-2.
Liverpool 2-5 Real Madrid
Champions League Last 16 First Leg, Anfield
February 21, 2023
Nunez 4′ (assist – Salah)
Salah 14′ (assist – Courtois)
Vinicius Jr 21′
Vinicius Jr 36′
After jeers for the Champions League anthem and chants of “fuck UEFA” around Anfield, a rematch of last year’s final got underway with Liverpool in confident form.
It took Darwin Nunez just over three minutes to break the deadlock, and he did so in style as he knocked a backheeled flick beyond Thibaut Courtois to take early advantage.
Mohamed Salah went close to making it two after dancing through and firing just wide, but made no mistake when a howler from Courtois gave him a simple finish for 2-0.
Real were on the ropes, panicking with every touch at the back, but a moment of magic from Vinicius Jr. reduced the deficit, bending it into the far corner.
After a stellar stop to deny Vinicius Jr minutes earlier, Alisson produced a shocking error as he played it straight off the Brazilian to loop over him and in for an equaliser.
HT: Liverpool 2-2 Real Madrid
From being 2-0 up within 14 minutes, the Reds were 3-2 down two minutes after the restart, with Joe Gomez giving away a needless free-kick which Luka Modric whipped in and Eder Militao headed home.
It was an awful night for Gomez, who looked shaky and sloppy throughout, and Real made it 4-2 via a huge deflection off the No. 2, with Karim Benzema credited with the goal.
Nunez and Cody Gakpo off, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino on; Jurgen Klopp turned to his more familiar faces in attack in a desperate bid to salvage the tie.
Salvage the tie they did not, with the inexperience of Stefan Bajcetic allowing Modric to break, with Benzema then wrong-footing Alisson and firing in for his second.
Before this defeat, the most Liverpool had conceded at Anfield in Europe was in the 3-0 loss to Real in 2014; now, 5-2 stands as their worst-ever home European defeat.
TIA Man of the Match: Mohamed Salah
Referee: Istvan Kovacs (ROU)
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez (Matip 73′), Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson (Milner 73′), Bajcetic (Elliott 85′); Salah, Nunez (Jota 63′), Gakpo (Firmino 63′)
Subs not used: Kelleher, Adrian, Tsimikas, Keita, Jones, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carvalho
Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Rudiger, Alaba (Nacho 27′); Camavinga, Modric (Kroos 87′), Valverde; Rodrygo (Ceballos 81′), Vinicius Jr., Benzema (Asensio 87′)
Subs not used: Lunin, Vallejo, Odriozola, Vazquez, Martin, Arribas, Alvaro, Hazard
Next match: Crystal Palace (A) – Premier League – Saturday, February 25, 7.45pm (GMT)