Real Madrid beat Liverpool to reach Champions League QFs

MADRID — Karim Benzema’s second-half goal gave Real Madrid a 1-0 win over Liverpool and secured the holders a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

The result at the Santiago Bernabeu completed a 6-2 aggregate win for Carlo Ancelotti’s side in the Round of 16. With Liverpool needing to win by three goals to level the tie and make it into extra time, manager Jurgen Klopp entered Wednesday’s game saying they had only “a one percent chance” of progressing to the next round to reach.

Despite keeping it tight for over an hour, Liverpool rarely looked like they could salvage the tie and their exit was confirmed when Benzema scored from close range after being put up by Vinicius Junior.

– El Classico! Real Madrid-Barcelona on ESPN+ (Sunday, 4pm ET)
– Champions League knockout round draw: full details

Fast reaction

1. Real Madrid show why they remain the team to beat

Although hard work was put in at Anfield with a 5-2 win in the first leg, Real Madrid’s achievement in knocking Liverpool out of the Champions League with a 6-2 aggregate win should not be underestimated.

Liverpool are one of the most successful and impressive teams in Europe and only Real can surpass their recent streak of three finals in five years. So inflicting such a crushing defeat against Jurgen Klopp’s side shows Real are serious again.

This season, which turns into an unusually open Champions League this season, hasn’t changed the fact that Real are still the side to beat. Regardless of whether they are drawn against fellow favorites like Manchester City in Friday’s draw or an underdog like AC Milan, Carlo Ancelotti’s side are expected to progress.

This real never quite got the respect it deserves. People still adore Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team with Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, which won two Champions League titles in three years in 2009 and 2011, but several players of this Real team have in the last 10 years won four or five. Karim Benzema, who scored the only goal of the game, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Dani Carvajal are multiple winners while the rest won in Paris after beating Liverpool last season. Antonio Ruediger didn’t, but he had won it with Chelsea a year earlier.

So this Real side is packed with Champions League winners of the season and they still have a lot to offer. Their win over Liverpool in the first leg was a warning to the rest of Europe, but so was that game in the sense that they were experienced enough to ensure Liverpool never got going in their bid to land a remarkable comeback. Real have already won 14 European Cups and no one else even comes close. Don’t bet against them winning another one this time.

2. Liverpool need a big boost to qualify next season

This time last year Liverpool were on course for a quadruple and just missed out on their two biggest trophies – the Premier League and Champions League – in the final week of the season. But 12 months later, their silver hopes are already dashed as Real have ended their Champions League prospects.

Liverpool’s season is still alive, but only in the sense that they now have just over two months to salvage it by securing a top-four finish and a Champions League return next season . With 12 Premier League games to play, Klopp’s side are six points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, albeit with a game in hand. But Brentford and Brighton & Hove Albion are both upping the ante behind them and Newcastle United are two points up in fifth place after playing a game in hand.

So Liverpool have a battle ahead of them to get back into the Champions League and the outcome of that battle will be crucial in the rebuilding needed, regardless of where they finish this season. If Liverpool land in the Europa League next season, will that be enough to convince top target Jude Bellingham to turn down a move to Real in favor of a Borussia Dortmund-to-Anfield transfer?

And without the extra finances that come from playing in the Champions League, Klopp will take the chance to refresh his squad as much as needed, especially in midfield. Liverpool always faced a formidable challenge against Real after losing the first leg 5-2, but being knocked out of the Champions League in the last 16 is a failure for a club of their size and ambition. Finishing outside of the Premier League top 4 would make a poor season even worse.

3. Courtois and Alisson recover from first-leg mistakes

It could easily be argued that this game pitted the two best goalkeepers in the world at the moment. Real’s Thibaut Courtois and Liverpool’s Alisson Becker both made uncharacteristic mistakes that resulted in goals in the first leg at Anfield, but even their harshest critics would have trouble claiming those mistakes were anything but a blip.

But just to prove those mistakes were truly exceptional, Courtois and Alisson produced top-notch performances at the Bernabeu to underline their status as the best in the world.

Courtois probably just shades it ahead of Alisson as the best in the world judging by that game. He made a huge save from Cody Gakpo in the 36th minute when a goal conceded would have given Liverpool a huge boost to break a three-goal deficit. The ex-Chelsea goalkeeper is an imposing figure, good with his feet, adept in the air and, thanks to his excellent positioning, makes every safe look routine. Alisson isn’t quite as tall physically but he’s quicker off the line and his ability to spot threats was also key to a number of early interventions against Real.

Manchester City’s Ederson and Paris Saint-Germain’s Gianluigi Donnarumma could make their case to be judged alongside Courtois and Alisson, but Real and Liverpool No 1s are the top dogs.

Best and worst performers

BEST: Alisson Becker, GK Liverpool.
He made a number of crucial saves to hold Liverpool with an outside chance to go three goals down

BEST: Luka Modric, MF, Real Madrid.
Rarely will play another 37-year-old these days but against Liverpool veteran James Milner Modric was free to command the game and dictate the pace for Real.

THE BEST: Eduardo Camavinga, MF, Real Madrid.
It’s hard to believe that the Real midfielder is only 20 years old. Could be the heart of Real’s team for a decade if he continues to play like he did in this game.

WORST: Darwin Nunez, FW, Liverpool.
All the effort and energy, but he needs to slow down. Does everything at 100mph but he would be so much better if he learned that pace doesn’t always have to be the focus of everything he does.

WORST: Nacho, DF, Real Madrid.
The weak link in Real’s defence. Struggled to contain Mohamed Salah and Liverpool took aim at the full-back.

WORST: Trent Alexander-Arnold, DF, Liverpool.
It’s a recurring theme, but he just doesn’t defend well enough against high-profile opponents. Vinicius almost had freedom of his side of the pitch against the Liverpool defender.

Highlights and notable moments

Count on Karim Benzema to score the goal that ended Liverpool’s very, very slim chances of progressing.

After the game: What the coaches and players said

Karim Benzema, after the performance: “It was a difficult game after the first leg, but we wanted to go forward from the start. It was a good game for the fans, for everyone, and we’re in the quarter-finals.”

Benzema on whether he injured himself late: “It’s knocking, that’s all. I’ll be there [for the Clasico on Sunday].”

Key Statistics (provided by ESPN Stats & Information Research)

– With 19 quarter-final appearances in the Champions League, Real Madrid are behind only Bayern Munich (21) most of the time.

– Karim Benzema has scored 35 goals in the Champions League, putting Robert Lewandowski in 3rd place all-time. Cristiano Ronaldo (58) and Lionel Messi (50) are the only players with more.

– Real Madrid: 5-0-1 (WLD) in the last 6 games against Liverpool, including two final wins.

– All six of Liverpool’s eliminations from UEFA competitions under Jurgen Klopp have been against Spanish clubs (four v Real Madrid, one v Atletico Madrid, one v Sevilla)


Real Madrid: Another big duel as they travel to Barcelona on Sunday (Stream on ESPN+ at 4 p.m. ET). Madrid will be looking to gain ground on their LaLiga rivals in the standings, nine points behind them to take the top spot.

Liverpool: Of all cup competitions not including matches before the FIFA international break. Once back in action, they have a crucial league game at Manchester City on April 1, where a positive result will boost hopes for the top four. Real Madrid beat Liverpool to reach Champions League QFs

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