Liverpool Fc (The Reds) were beaten by the hosts Real Madrid CF 3-1 in the First Leg of the Champions League 2020-21 Quarter-final.
Diogo Jota started in place of Roberto Firmino while Georginio Wijnaldum and Naby Keïta replaced Thiago Alcântara and veteran James Milner in the starting XI.
The Midfield Duo started on the bench as Jürgen Klopp made 3 changes to the side that defeated the hosts Arsenal City Fc in the Premier League.
Both sides looked to quickly get off the blocks but it was home side that had their first shot on target through Karim Benzema but his shot from outside the box was comfortably saved by Alisson Becker in the second minute following a headed pass from Casemiro.
Real Madrid CF quickly settled in the game and they clearly knew that keeping possession was the effective way to hurt the Reds.
The home side were particularly keen to press Fabinho as quickly as possible through Toni Kroos as he pushed the Brazilian as soon as he receives the ball.
With the home side doing all the pressing, the Reds did not get to grips with this game and (rather unusually) the visitors looked a tad nervous in possession.
Whatever the plan behind to bring Naby Keïta did not seem to work for the Reds.
After a poor pass from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Benzema came close to scoring the opening Goal for the home side in the 25th minute but Ozan Kabak made a crucial block.
The sloppy Reds quickly paid the price as Vinícius Júnior scored the opening Goal as the young Brazilian running through Nathaniel Phillips and Alexander-Arnold to hammer the ball past Alisson to the bottom right corner of the net in the 27th minute following a brilliant cross from Kroos.
The visitors conceded another dreadful Goal and this time Alexander-Arnold poor headed clearance went straight in the path of Marco Asensio who then scored in the 36th minute (despite Alisson trying his best to keep the ball away).
With the manner of how the Reds played, this tie seemed be over even before the First Half ended. Just dreadful performance from the Reds during the First Half!
In a bid to win the ball, Sadio Mané picked up a Yellow Card for his challenge on Lucas Vázquez in the 36th minute.
In the 42nd minute, the ineffective Keïta was replaced by Thiago Alcântara in the 42nd minute.
A fine save from Alisson denied Asensio as the Spaniard almost punished a loose pass back from Kabak to Alisson.
Offensively and especially defensively the Reds had been all over the place during the First Half.
The First Half ended with the fortunate Reds trailing 2-0 but required a massive improvement in performance from the Second Half.
By scoring the crucial Away Goal, Salah pulled one back for the Reds as the Egyptian struck his shot to the high centre of the goal in the 51st minute.
Later, Thiago was shown the Yellow Card for his challenge on Marco Asensio in the 56th minute.
Vinícius Júnior restored the home side’s two Goal cushion to make it 3-1 as the young Brazilian struck his shot to the bottom right corner following an assist by Luka Modric. Alisson should have done better to save as the effort from Vinícius Júnior was not that firmly struck.
In the 81st minute, Diogo Jota and Ozan Kabak made way for Xherdan Shaqiri and Roberto Firmino.
Taking off Kabak meant that Fabinho moved back to the Centre Back position and the Reds switched to 4-2-3-1 Formation.
In the 83rd minute, Alexander-Arnold received a Yellow Card but not much could be said whether that was for dissent or for catching Vinícius Júnior.
With the Reds unable to find another Goal, the game ended with Real Madrid CF defeating the visitors Reds 3-1 (which is ironically the same scoreline like the Champions League 2017-18 Final)!
Reds Team Performance Ratings
Liverpool (4-3-3 Formation)
Alisson Becker – 5: Could not do with the first 2 Goals that the Reds conceded but could have done better with stopping the third Goal.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 6: Clearly looked rattled and conceded possessions during the First Half. His poor header paved the way for the second Goal for Asensio. Despite picking up a Yellow Card, the young Englishman improved during the Second Half.
Ozan Kabak – 6: Done reasonably well to deal with Benzema on several occasions.
Nathaniel Phillips – 6: Caught flat-footed by long ball from Kroos that led to Vinicius opener. Won some of his Ariel duels.
Andrew Robertson – 6: Sloppy in possession and was exposed defensively particularly during the First Half. Like Alexander-Arnold, the Scot upped the ante.
Georginio Wijnaldum – 5: Looked ruffled by the pressing from the home side. Slopping in passing and possession during the First Half and marginally improved during the Second Half but could not dictate the game.
Fabinho – 5: Clearly targeted by the home side, the Brazilian bypassed far too easily by the Real Madrid CF midfield and was caught out of position on lot of occasions during the First Half. Moved back to the Centre Back during the latter parts of the game. Just was not good enough for the Brazilian’s standards!
Naby Keïta – 3: The gamble to bring on the Guinean epically failed as the midfielder was way off pace, hardly any impact and was rightly hauled off before half-time.
Sadio Mané – 4: Tirelessly worked hard for the side but his contribution in the final third was not good enough.
Diogo Jota – 5: Forced to drop deep in search of ball and lost possessions in the process as well. Could not make the desired effect.
Mohamed Salah – 6: Scored the vital Away Goal that kept the Reds in the hunt. The Egyptian hardly received a quality service from his team mates and hardly made an impact. Scored the Second Goal for the Reds. Linked well with Alexander-Arnold.
Thiago Alcântara – 6: Brought on to replace the ineffective Keïta and provide more control in the midfield for the Reds. The Spaniard’s introduction brought more impetus to the side.
Roberto Firmino – N/A: Not enough time to make an impact.
Xherdan Shaqiri – N/A: Same as Firmino.
Jürgen Klopp – 6: The Gaffer made a poor decision to name Keïta in the starting XI ahead of Thiago but rectified his error of judgement by replacing Keïta for Thiago before the end of First Half.
The Reds did pick up the crucial Away Goal and avoid conceding the fourth Goal but if the Reds performed like they did during the First Half, then its Lights Out at Anfield!
Klopp will have plenty of time to ponder before the return leg at Anfield next week.
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