In the first half, Liverpool were bad. Very bad. As adverbs and adjectives go, very bad is not the most descriptive or eloquent, but it just about sums it up.
In what has been a difficult season so far for Liverpool, one that they hope could still end with silverware, the first half against Real Madrid was one of their worst 45 minutes of the campaign.
There were two Real Madrid goals from eight attempts, while Liverpool failed to register a single first-half shot for the first time in the Champions League since 2014.
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Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane had little joy up front, while at the back there were eight crucial touches which put Real in firm control of the tie.
The first came from Toni Kroos’ right boot. A sumptuous, quarterback pass for Vinicius Jr to chest it down perfectly (Touch No.2) before firing the opener (Touch No.3) past the helpless Alisson Becker.
Nine minutes later, Kroos’ ball forward (Touch No.4) was inexplicably headed (Touch No.5) by Trent Alexander-Arnold into the path of Marco Asensio, whose flick (Touch No.6) slipped through the fingertips of Alisson (Touch No.7) before the Real Madrid forward then beat Andy Robertson to the ball to make it 2-0 with Touch No.8.
It was no more than Real deserved – likewise Liverpool.
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Alexander-Arnold, a clear target for Real Madrid as they continuously attacked down their left, and Naby Keita – substituted three minutes before half-time – were the poster boys of Liverpool’s dreadful half, but in truth no player bar Ozan Kabak, who made a couple of vital blocks, had a single moment to shout about.
The saving grace was that Liverpool were able to come out for the second half knowing they could hardly play any worse, fortunate there were still at least 135 minutes remaining to make this tie a contest once more.
And to begin with, they looked much improved, faster with the ball and driving with more purpose. Only six minutes into the half and Mohamed Salah scored an away goal which gave the quarter-final a different air.
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But then they went to sleep again. From a throw-in, just moments after they were almost caught out at the back, Liverpool were caught out at the back, slow to respond as Luka Modric picked out Vinicius Jr for his second of the night.
Liverpool chased a second but looked equally as exposed at the back, and in the end they left Madrid with a two-goal deficit to overturn at Anfield next week.
Given 10 of the players who featured in the 2018 final between these sides were also in the starting line-ups on Tuesday night, it was difficult to forget that showdown from three years ago, particularly as both scorelines ended 3-1, but especially as Kroos, Modric and Casemiro were once more running the show.
This time around, however, Liverpool still have a chance. Another leg to go. Somehow they are still in with a shout, with a 2-0 home win enough to see them through.
Liverpool will be grateful the deficit wasn’t greater, grateful a semi-final still isn’t out of the question.
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