Liverpool 2-5 Real Madrid: Vinícius Júnior and Benzema score two each in stunning comeback from Champions League holders
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Real Madrid came from two down to beat Liverpool 5-2 at Anfield in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie.
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UEFA Champions League holders Real Madrid have one foot in the quarter-finals after a sensational 5-2 win against Liverpool at Anfield.
4': Núñez scores with outlandish flick
14': Salah pounces on Courtois lapse
21': Vinícius fizzes shot past Alisson
36': Alisson clearance goes in off Vinícius
47: Éder Militão heads in Modrić free-kick
55: Benzema shot deflects in off Gomez
67: Benzema coolly finishes slick counter
Match in brief: Madrid mount stunning comeback
When Darwin Núñez impudently flicked Liverpool into an early lead, few could have predicted what was to come; when Mohamed Salah then pounced on Thibaut Courtois' mis-control to make it 2-0 before a quarter of an hour had been played, the final scoreline seemed implausible.
As was evident when these two teams met in last season's final, though, Madrid are not easily beaten. Vinícius Júnior struck twice – the first a fine finish past Alisson, the second a block on the Liverpool keeper's clearance – to restore parity before half-time.
Éder Militão headed in Luka Modrić's free-kick early in the second half to complete the turnaround, and there was still time for Karim Benzema to come to the fore. Though the Madrid No9 was fortunate when his shot deflected in off Joe Gomez to make it 4-2, he was the model of cool when applying the finish to a swift counterattack for the visitors' fifth.
Steven Gerrard, BT Sport
"This is a reality check. Liverpool made the perfect start but from that moment Madrid came back into it and Liverpool were dominated. Any team that concedes five goals, there has to be an inquest. There's going to be a bit of soul-searching now."
PlayStation® Player of the Match: Vinícius Júnior (Real Madrid)
"Decisive attacking moments and a game-changing finish at 2-0 down. Two goals, an assist and he won the foul for the goal from a free-kick. Modrić was also outstanding."
UEFA Technical Observer panel
Matthew Howarth, Liverpool reporter
The game appeared to be following a familiar script in the early stages, as Liverpool overwhelmed the reigning champions in a relentless opening. But Madrid's class then came to the fore; after clawing their way back into the game, Carlo Ancelotti's team may have put the tie beyond the Reds in the second. Having looked capable of restoring their two-goal advantage after Vinícius had pulled one back, Liverpool never really recovered from the Brazilian's opportunistic second.
Graham Hunter, Real Madrid reporter
Ask yourself: how many teams could do this? Three key players absent (Ferland Mendy, Toni Kroos and Aurélien Tchouaméni), choosing to play three strikers in an adventurous 4-3-3, going 2-0 down and then scoring five in reply? Last season featured incredible Madrid comeback performances against Paris, Chelsea and Manchester City which looked unlikely to be matched, let alone superseded. But these are remarkable competitors, from Ancelotti, through Modrić, Vinícius and Benzema. Roll on part two.
Carlo Ancelotti, Real Madrid manager: "Winning like this isn't easy, above all because of how the match began. We never lost confidence and little by little we won control of the ball. Vinícius Júnior produced an incredible performance tonight."
Thibaut Courtois, Real Madrid goalkeeper: "We're never beaten, we always react. Those two quick goals did help us to do that. We were calm, mentally, and when we are on the rise we play well."
Antonio Rüdiger, Real Madrid defender: "I've never experienced a night like tonight in football."
Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool manager: "The beginning was outstanding. It was us in a nutshell. It was perfect, exactly how we wanted to play. The whole first half was good beside the goals. The second goal is slapstick."
Jordan Henderson, Liverpool captain: "It's hard to sum it up straight after the game. For large parts of the first half we performed well and were unlucky to be level at half-time. We made too many mistakes. Real Madrid punished us every time tonight."
- Liverpool had never before conceded even four goals in a European home match.
- This was the first time Liverpool had ever lost a first leg at home in Europe to a team outside of England. Both previous first-leg defeats at Anfield were at the hands of domestic rivals – Leeds in the 1970/71 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup semi-finals and Chelsea in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
- Benzema is the first player to score in the UEFA Champions League in 19 successive calendar years (2005-2023). He has now scored six European Cup goals against Liverpool, more than any other player.
- Vinícius has scored against Liverpool in the knockout stage three seasons running (2022/23 round of 16, 2021/22 final, 2020/21 quarter-finals).
- Aged 22 years 224 days, Vinícius is the youngest visiting player to score twice against Liverpool at Anfield in major European competition since Johan Cruyff for Ajax in December 1966 (19 years 233 days).
- Salah is now Liverpool's all-time leading scorer in European competition with 42 goals, one more than Steven Gerrard.
- Salah's 44 UEFA Champions League goals make him the joint-highest African scorer in the competition's history, level with Didier Drogba.
- Aged 18 years 122 days, Stefan Bajčetić became the youngest player to start for Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League.
Fantasy star performers
Vinícius Júnior – 17
Karim Benzema – 13
Mohamed Salah – 10
Liverpool: Alisson Becker; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez (Matip 73), Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson (Milner 73), Fabinho, Bajcetic (Elliott 85); Salah, Gakpo (Firmino 64), Núñez (Jota 64)
Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal, Éder Militão, Rüdiger, Alaba (Nacho 27); Valverde, Camavinga, Modrić (Kroos 87); Rodrygo (Ceballos 81), Benzema (Asensio 87), Vinícius Júnior
The second leg takes place at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid on 15 March (21:00 CET).