Real Madrid’s comeback against Liverpool to win 5-2

Sports writer Ryan Shumaker recapitulates the matchup between the two teams during knockout stages.

For the neutral, last week’s Champions League round of 16 match between Liverpool and Real Madrid was a spectacular watch. It was a clash between two of Europe’s grandest football institutions and a rematch of last year’s Champions League final that produced magnificent goals and shocking errors in one of Europe’s vintage atmospheres. From a Real Madrid perspective, these elements combined to deliver an emphatic reaffirmation of the club’s eternal indomitability. As for the view through the Red Lens of the Kopp and its faithful, every demonstration of Madrid’s shimmering brilliance magnified the broken areas of this Liverpool team that less than 12 months ago was on the verge of total footballing conquest.

Neither side is having an ideal domestic campaign. Real Madrid are eight points adrift of their rivals Barcelona at the top of La Liga while Liverpool sits eighth in the Premier League. Alarming though it may sound, these are two clubs who have built the foundation of their history on rising to the occasion in Europe’s elite competition. Of the six times Real Madrid has been crowned champions of Europe in the 21st century, they were only simultaneously Spanish Champions twice. In Liverpool’s case, they lifted the European Cup in Istanbul after only managing to finish fifth in England in the 2004-05 season and have made it to the Champions League Final three times since 2018 — including their sixth title in 2019 — in seasons where they failed to win the Premier League. All that is to say, domestic struggle has rarely been a reliable indication of how these clubs will perform on a European night.

Whatever concerns Liverpool fans may have held coming in about their poor season or the fact that it was Real Madrid coming to visit, it was impossible not to feel some sense of raw belief as You’ll Never Walk Alone rang out around Anfield just before the teams made their way onto the pitch. After all, Liverpool was coming off two consecutive wins in the league and the spine of this team is comprised of many of the same names who overcame the impossible odds against Barcelona to reach the final in 2019 and thrashed so many other of Europe’s giants on nights just like this. Sure enough, it took less than four minutes for that faith to be rewarded. An incisive pass from Mo Salah found the end of a clever run from Darwin Nunez who gave Liverpool the lead with the most graceful of flicks past Thibaut Courtois. Anfield was alive and while Real Madrid looked pedestrian, Klopp’s men were pressing at full pelt. Ten minutes after going 1-0 down, a mistake from Courtois gifted Salah a chance he was never going to miss. 15 minutes in, Liverpool were 2-0 ahead and overwhelming the Spanish giants who have been the Reds’ bane in Europe for the last five years.

However, as the story of Real Madrid’s 2022 campaign demonstrates, the European champions had Liverpool right where they wanted them. In the 21st minute out of nowhere Vinicius Junior hit a venomous curler past a hopelessly diving Alisson. The equalizer came 15 minutes later in the form of a dreadful mistake by Alisson which saw a pass of his rebound off Vinicius into the Liverpool net. There was no sense that Madrid had seized control of the game, but as though it were a law of nature, Los Blancos went ahead five minutes into the second half by way of an uncontested Militao header. To come back against Chelsea, PSG and City at home was one thing, but this time Real Madrid had overturned a 2-0 deficit at one of Europe’s great fortresses on a night when Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool seemed to have found their old spark.

Though the Kopp end sang on with unwavering fervor, the game’s final 40 minutes saw the cogs in Jurgen Klopp’s once unstoppable machine turn ever more slowly while Madrid’s 37-year-old midfield maestro Modric put on a show which earned the applause of Liverpool fans at the final whistle. It was a brace from the Balon d’or winner Benzema that put real three goals to the good, turning a steep climb back for Liverpool into a surely unreachable summit as they will have to win by four at the Bernabeu on March 15th.

There’s a line in Real Madrid’s club anthem which says, “no one can resist your desire to win.” And when it comes to the Champions League knockout stages, that lyric describes a law of nature which is rarely defied.

Post Author: Ryan Shumaker