Toothless Liverpool Exit Champions League After Real Madrid Stalemate

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Liverpool exited the Champions League after a 0-0 draw against Real Madrid at Anfield.

Trailing 3-1 from the first tie, the Reds battered the Spaniards for 90 minutes, but couldn’t find a way to goal against the deep sitting and disciplined Spaniards.

Despite creating several good openings, the home team — with Mohamed Salah particularly guilty — will rue their poor finishing and, of course, the abject performance in the first leg.

Liverpool started the game with a breakneck tempo and they looked to target Fede Valverde, the Uruguayan central midfielder who was filling in as a right back. Long passes into the channels to Sadio Mane — who was operating from the left hand side — were commonplace and the Senegalese winger had particular joy in this duel.

It was through this source that the hosts had their best opening chance. After Ozan Kabak won the ball back just outside his own box, the Turk played a searching pass over the top, landing directly on the foot of Mane. The number 10’s touch was sublime and he skipped past Valverde before squaring a pass for Salah. Salah hit the shot first time, but right at the feed of Thibaut Courtois and Madrid escaped when they ought to have been a goal down.

With Trent Alexander Arnold sublime going forward, Liverpool continued to turn the screw and more half-chances arrived for Salah and Georginio Wijnaldum, both of which were skyed over the bar.

Madrid rarely threatened and were content to sit deep and play on the break and their best opening of the half came when Karim Benzema — a relative passenger — deflected a shot off Kabak and onto the outside of the post. The chance only came about because the otherwise excellent Nat Phillips inexplicably lost his footing and allowed the Frenchman in.

The halftime whistle blew and both the teams, oddly, would have been pleased with their showing. Liverpool, up until the final pass, had impressed in every facet of the game, and Madrid — given their game plan was to bend and not break defensively — would have been content with their clean sheet.

The second period followed the same pattern and Liverpool were in the ascendancy in terms of possession and territory. A stream of chances flowed for the home side, but they were unable to capitalize upon them.

Jurgen Klopp was brave in his changes, as he attempted to add bite to his team’s dominance. On came Diogo Jota, Thiago, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, with the Reds pivoting to a 4231 formation with Fabinho dropping back to centre half as Kabak was replaced by Thiago.

The only exception to a second-half that was an avalanche of Liverpool attack was when Vinicius Junior was released by a long ball and outsprinted Phillips but Alisson — ever sharp in his role of sweeper-keeper — proactively rushed off his line and saved from his compatriot.

With time running out, the Reds upped the tempo further, but with a deep sitting opposition in front of them, much of the game was played just in front of the Madrid box. Ultimately, they couldn’t turn the screw enough and Madrid held out to advance to the semi final.

It will be little consolation to a disappointed bunch of players and fans, but if Liverpool keep this level up in their remaining league fixtures, then they’ll compete in this competition again next season.

Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Phillips, Kabak, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Replacements: Thiago for Kabak, Shaqiri for Milner, Oxlade Chamberlain for Mane, Jota for Firmino.

Subs not used: Adrian, Davies, Davies, Tsimikas, Williams, Cain, Clarkson, Keita.

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