For the third consecutive season, Liverpool’s Champions League hopes were dashed by Real Madrid after failing to overcome their first-leg Anfield thrashing.
The Reds, who were defeated 5-2 in the first leg, lined up with four forwards at the Bernabeu, hoping to add another famous comeback to their illustrious European history.
But that never looked likely, and legendary Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema put the tie beyond doubt late on when he tucked in from Vinicius Jr’s cutback.
Without Alisson, Jurgen Klopp’s team would have lost by a larger margin.
With first-half saves, the Reds goalkeeper denied Vinicius and Eduardo Camavinga.
It could have been a different story if Darwin Nunez had taken a chance in the sixth minute.
As they reflected on their biggest ever aggregate Champions League defeat, Liverpool players walked off to ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ over the Bernabeu speakers.
The Reds were beaten finalists against Real Madrid last summer but are now fighting for a place in the tournament next season, sitting six points behind the Champions League places.
One disadvantage for Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid was Benzema injuring himself while scoring and having to be replaced four days before the El Clasico against Barcelona.
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There is no Madrid miracle.
This was the 92nd time in a European Cup tie that a team lost by three or more goals in the first leg at home. All 92 of them have been eliminated.
Data analysts Gracenote gave Liverpool a 3.92% probability of progression and Jurgen Klopp talked about a “1% chance” beforehand.
That was the challenge they faced after Madrid demonstrated their willingness to take risks at Anfield.
However, this is Liverpool and the Champions League.
In the 2005 Champions League final, they came back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Ancelotti’s Milan. Three years ago, they lost 3-0 to Barcelona before winning the second leg 4-0 at home.
Liverpool had to give it a shot with forwards Diogo Jota, Nunez, Mohamed Salah, and Cody Gakpo on the field.
Who knows what would have happened if Nunez had scored after six minutes instead of shooting at Thibaut Courtois. After cutting in from the left wing, the Uruguayan forced another two saves from the goalkeeper, most notably with a fine curling effort.
But they were extremely fortunate to only lose this leg 1-0. There was no gung-ho, “heavy metal” blockbuster attempt to win.
Between James Milner’s blocked effort in the 37th minute and Harvey Elliott’s on-target attempt after 82 minutes, they didn’t even have a shot.
In injury time, referee Felix Zwayer went to the monitor to see if Konstantinos Tsimikas had handled the ball, but the decision was no penalty to Real.
As in last year’s final in Paris and the previous season’s quarter-final, Real Madrid defeated Liverpool.
The Reds will almost certainly finish the season without a trophy, which will be a huge blow to their future plans if they are unable to overtake Newcastle and Tottenham to finish fourth in the Premier League at the end of the season.
The kings of the Champions League march on.
Ancelotti said beforehand that psychologically “it’s tougher for us than Liverpool” because the Reds knew they had to go “all out from the first minute”.
But it was Real who had the majority of the opportunities. They had 17 shots here, compared to nine on Merseyside, which resulted in five goals.
With an outstretched arm, Alisson saved Vinicius’ close-range volley. Then he deflected Camavinga’s looping long-range strike onto the crossbar.
Luka Modric drilled a shot from outside the box just wide. Alisson denied Federico Valverde and Karim Benzema in quick succession after the break.
Valverde was unnoticed when he headed over another chance.
The pressure eventually paid off when Benzema slotted in from Vinicius’ pass as they got in behind the Reds’ defense. That was his seventh Champions League goal against Liverpool, a club record.
Ancelotti and Real will be hoping that the issue that caused him to leave is not too serious. They travel to the Nou Camp on Sunday needing a win to keep their La Liga title hopes alive, trailing leaders Barcelona by nine points.
But, for the time being, the 14-time European champions can savor reaching their 19th Champions League quarter-final.