Real Madrid cruised into the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals as Liverpool never threatened the three-goal fightback they required in a 1-0 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu.
European champions Madrid had claimed a brilliant 5-2 win in England in the first leg of their last-16 tie, leaving Liverpool a mighty uphill battle in Wednesday’s return match.
The Reds defence – and Alisson in particular – at least gave their team-mates a platform from which to build this time, but the goal threat that had briefly concerned Madrid on Merseyside was less evident.
Eventually, Karim Benzema, that familiar foe, put Jurgen Klopp’s side out of their misery as Madrid continued their bid for yet another crown in their favourite competition of all.
The goalkeepers were the undoubted stars of a goalless first half, with Alisson brilliantly blocking from Vinicius Junior at close quarters and soon touching Eduardo Camavinga’s deflected shot onto the crossbar. A VAR review might have overturned the offside given against Vinicius when he was denied again by Alisson.
Those stops just about kept Liverpool in the tie, but Thibaut Courtois – the hero of last season’s final between the sides – was not to be outdone. His fingertip stop from Darwin Nunez was as impressive as any of Alisson’s saves, and he then beat away a thunderous Cody Gakpo drive.
Federico Valverde ran through early in the second half but scuffed straight at Alisson, with the same man heading over following excellent work on the left from Luka Modric. Benzema also missed the target when well placed on his right foot.
The chances continued to fall Madrid’s way, however, and Benzema made no mistake when Vinicius miscued his finish and instead prodded to his team-mate for an open goal in the 78th minute.
Benzema took a kick in the process, but that was about the extent of Madrid’s concern in a dominant 6-2 aggregate triumph.
Real Madrid player ratings (4-3-3)
GK: Thibaut Courtois – 7/10 – Made saves when called upon, particularly one early on that could have changed the tie had it gone in. But didn’t have loads to do overall.
RB: Dani Carvajal – 8/10 – Didn’t give Liverpool a sniff down his flank.
CB: Eder Militao – 7/10 – Defensively sound.
CB: Antonio Rudiger – 6/10 – Didn’t always looked the most assured, especially when Salah was buzzing around, but got the job done in the end.
LB: Nacho – 7/10 – So dependable.
CM: Luka Modric – 8/10 – Pretty flawless in dictating the game.
CM: Eduardo Camavinga – 8/10 – Played with confidence and maturity beyond his years at the heart of the team. Hit the bar when Alisson tipped his swerving shot onto the woodwork.
CM: Toni Kroos – 8/10 – Worked really well with Vinicius in the left channel.
RW: Federico Valverde – 7/10 – Not scared of trying his luck and made sure that Robertson was largely pinned back.
ST: Karim Benzema (c) – 7/10 – Had a number of chances and should have taken at least one before he actually scored. Hobbled off soon after, which will be a concern ahead of Sunday’s Clasico.
LW: Vinicius Junior – 8/10 – Made a bright and confident start. Denied by an outstanding Alisson save in the first half, gave Alexander-Arnold a pretty torrid time and finished with an assist.
SUB: Dani Ceballos (82′ for Modric) – N/A
SUB: Rodrygo (82′ for Benzema) – N/A
SUB: Marco Asensio (84′ for Vinicius) – N/A
SUB: Aurelien Tchouameni (84′ for Kroos) – N/A
SUB: Lucas Vazquez (86′ for Carvajal) – N/A
Carlo Ancelotti – 8/10 – No concerns that his team weren’t taking chances because they were always in control. Made his changes when the job was well and truly done.
Liverpool player ratings (4-2-3-1)
GK: Alisson – 9/10 – Liverpool could have conceded five again without him.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – 4/10 – No surprise that he struggled defensively, but this wasn’t a good night for him on the ball either. Sloppy.
CB: Ibrahima Konate – 5/10 – Gave the ball away too easily.
CB: Virgil van Dijk – 5/10 – Ought to have done better when Real eventually did score.
LB: Andrew Robertson – 6/10 – The better of Liverpool’s two full-backs but still a rough night.
CM: Fabinho – 7/10 – Actually performed quite well but Liverpool lacked bodies in the middle.
CM: James Milner (c) – 5/10 – Worked hard but was never on the same level as Real.
RM: Mohamed Salah – 6/10 – Pace made him a threat and he was more involved than his teammates.
AM: Cody Gakpo – 6/10 – Tracked all the way back to make a potentially goal-saving tackle on Benzema early on. Forced Courtois into a decent first half save.
LM: Diogo Jota – 4/10 – Might as well have not been on the pitch.
ST: Darwin Nunez – 5/10 – Had chances but couldn’t take them. Hardly touched the ball overall.
SUB: Roberto Firmino (57′ for Nunez) – 5/10
SUB: Harvey Elliott (57′ for Jota) – 6/10
SUB: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (73′ for Milner) – 5/10
SUB: Fabio Carvalho (90+2′ for Gakpo) – N/A
SUB: Kostas Tsimikas (90+2′ for Robertson) – N/A
Jurgen Klopp – 5/10 – Had no response to a very solid Real Madrid performance. Allowed his emotions to boil over in the second half and was cautioned by the referee.