Real Madrid turned class in a comprehensive 5-2 victory over Liverpool in their Champions League Round of 16 first leg at Anfield on Tuesday night as Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema netted twice.
The rematch of last year’s final – won by Madrid – was a thriller with the 14-time champions scoring five unanswered goals after losing 2-0 to put qualification for the quarter-finals on an almost certain track. .
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“We dedicate this victory to the honorary president of our club, Amancio Amaro (who died on Tuesday),” Benzema said after the game. “This victory is for him. We showed personality, scored goals. We want this Champions League.
“It was a great game. We didn’t start well. After 15 minutes we saw Real Madrid. Football is always difficult. They started the game better than us, buoyed by the support of their fans. We knew we had to do more and we did until the end.”
A fascinating first half saw Liverpool take a two-goal lead with a fabulous finish from Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah’s strike from close range after a laughable blunder by Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
The visitors reduced the deficit before the half-hour through Vinicius, who cut to his right in the penalty area and curled a perfect low shot past Alisson to make it 2-1.
Another shock ball from a goalkeeper led to Madrid’s second, as Alisson’s pass from the back was missed and bounced off Vinicius, looped over the Liverpool keeper and rolled into the net to even the score before the break.
Despite the slow start, goals from Eder Militao and Benzema early in the second half gave Madrid a shocking 4-2 lead before the hour mark, silencing the Anfield crowd and leaving Jurgen Klopp puzzled over the hit.
Benzema scored his second to complete a classy Madrid counterattack, with the French striker collecting a pass from Vinicius, sliding to his left past a pressed Alisson and burying a shot into the top left corner.
“I played very little in this Champions League,” Benzema said. “I have to help my team with goals and assists. I played a good game. I had a lot of games last season and I got injured at the World Cup. It’s always difficult to reach its best, but little by little I’m getting better.”
Real Madrid all but eliminated Liverpool, who conceded five Champions League goals for the first time in the club’s history, in the competition ahead of the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 15.
“A lot of things can happen in football,” Benzema said. “We are on the right track, but we will need another big game in Madrid.”