Liverpool rue missed chances as Real Madrid end Champions League hopes | Champions League


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Ultimately, the Anfield factor wasn’t the missing vital ingredient in Liverpool’s rescue attempt against Real Madrid. It was the finish.

Jürgen Klopp’s side played with the energy of 55,000 fans apparently behind them, but an unnecessary night in front of Thibaut Courtois’ goal allowed the Spanish champions to escape the punishment that was handed out to many before them . Liverpool’s dream of another Champions League triumph in Istanbul is over.

A goalless draw was enough to take Zinedine Zidane’s side to the semi-final with Chelsea and in all fairness Madrid’s clean sheet owed a lot to the vigilance of the former Chelsea goalkeeper and resilience a makeshift defense that improved as the match progressed. . The visitors, attacking almost at will on the counterattack in the final stages, also lacked clinical touch. But Liverpool will legitimately reflect on what could have been as they digest a grueling and now trophy-less campaign.

The Premier League champions have had ample opportunity to add Madrid’s scalp to the list of touching European returns at Anfield. Courtois made impressive saves, Éder Militão blocked important blocks, but Liverpool’s inability to reverse the tie was mainly due to his own failures in the Madrid penalty area.

In 180 minutes, Zidane’s men defended better and finished better at home. Liverpool can take comfort in their great improvement in the first leg but cannot complain about their exit. Their season and participation in next year’s Champions League is now based on securing a top-four ranking.

In terms of intensity, a searing opening and fighting to the end, Liverpool have answered Klopp’s pre-match call to show ‘our best selves’ against Madrid. There had been a grim start to the proceedings with a minute’s silence for the 96 Liverpool supporters who had been unlawfully killed at Hillsborough on the eve of the 32nd anniversary of the disaster. A window on the coach of the Madrid squad has been smashed as it approaches the stadium. Allegedly by a bottle. Certainly by an idiot.

From the moment referee Björn Kuipers entered the second leg, the sterile atmosphere was forgotten as an absorbing European draw took shape.

Thibaut Courtois saves James Milner's long-range effort.
Thibaut Courtois saves James Milner’s long-range effort. Photographie: Antonio Villalba / Real Madrid / Getty Images

Liverpool got into the game. But for Courtois’ legs and fingertips, they would have had the required 2-0 lead after just 11 minutes.

Their first and ultimately best chance came in the second minute when Ozan Kabak took the measure of an injury-injured Madrid defense with a hopeful ball overhead. Sadio Mané, who was running behind Militão, faced the banal Mohamed Salah. Liverpool’s top scorer struck for the first time but too close to Courtois, who blocked with his left leg.

As in the first leg, Klopp again omitted Thiago Alcântara from his starting lineup but this time around, he chose James Milner to replace the midfielder in place of Naby Keïta. Perhaps the veteran’s mandate was to destroy, and he left an early mark on Karim Benzema and Luka Modric, but he almost produced an astonishing goal after Salah and Roberto Firmino combined to find him in space. Milner looped a precision finish to the top 25-yard corner, but Courtois, throwing himself to his left, lived up to the effort with a superb fingertip save.

Madrid’s quality in the final third, of course, couldn’t be completely smothered. Benzema nearly plundered an away goal when he pulled away from Nathaniel Phillips, who had a good game, and passed through Kabak into the zone. A deflection of Kabak’s knee carried the French striker’s shot past Alisson and to the base of the post.

Casemiro, moments after being fouled by Fabinho, put the whole Liverpool bench to their feet when he took revenge on Milner in front of the home dugout. The reservation was inevitable without their protests. Groans also emanated from this small section of Anfield as their team continued to create and squander opportunities to overturn the quarter-final. Mané was a few yards from the connection with a glorious Alexander-Arnold center at the far post. Salah soared after the good work of Wijnaldum, who skied a glorious chance himself after Alexander-Arnold made his way through four static white shirts.

The trend continued into the start of the second half with Courtois thwarting Firmino at his near post and the Brazilian heading when he is found by another right wing delivery from Alexander-Arnold. Madrid’s threat increased as Liverpool pushed in search of a lifeline. Alisson turned off Vinícius after being played by a sublime cross ball from Federico Valverde, a surprising choice at right-back. Benzema missed a header down and over the bar when he was chosen unscored by Ferland Mendy. Klopp threw all the attack options he could find. But Liverpool couldn’t find a way. Not this time.

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