Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema on Tuesday scored twice as Real Madrid produced another stunning UEFA Champions League fightback from 2-0 down to thrash Liverpool 5-2 in the first leg of their last-16 tie at Anfield on Tuesday.
Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah had given the hosts a perfect start in a repeat of last season’s Champions League final.
However, Vinicius struck twice to level by halftime and, after Eder Militao had given Carlo Ancelotti’s men the lead, Benzema’s double put the holders well on the way to the quarter-finals.
“We suffered a lot early on, you can’t start games like that, but fortunately the team had a cool head,” Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti said.
The defeat compounds a disastrous season for Liverpool after coming so close to an unprecedented quadruple of trophies last year.
Juergen Klopp’s men are languishing in eighth in the Premier League and appear to have no realistic chance of silverware this season.
“I think Carlo thinks the tie is over, and I think it is too in the moment,” Klopp said. “In three weeks we will get to the game and take our chances.”
“We go there and try to win the game. Whether it is possible, I don’t know, but we will try,” he said.
Madrid’s 1-0 victory when the sides met in Paris in May last year was overshadowed by chaotic scenes outside the Stade de France that put the lives of fans at risk.
The Liverpool support responded by drowning out the Champions League anthem with a chorus of boos, while a series of banners in the Kop took aim at UEFA and the French authorities.
Once the action started, the players produced the spectacle expected of a clash between two clubs with a combined 20 European Cups.
Liverpool briefly turned back the clock to some of their best nights under Klopp to explode out of the blocks.
Nunez produced a magical finish to flick home Salah’s pass inside four minutes.
Madrid overcame two-goal deficits to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City on their road to a 14th European Cup last season and were forced to do so again by their normally solid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
A loose touch from the Belgian handed Salah Liverpool’s second on a plate as the Egyptian became the Reds’ all-time top goalscorer in European competition with 42.
The defending champions again showed remarkable powers of recovery to turn the tie around in little over 30 minutes of play.
“Obviously we didn’t expect to start like we did, but at 2-0 down I thought about the City game in last year’s semi-final in the hope that we could do the same,” Ancelotti said. “It turned out even better.”
Vinicius was the match-winner in last season’s final and now has five goals in four appearances against Liverpool.
In Frankfurt, SSC Napoli’s Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen got on the scoresheet again as the Serie A leaders beat Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 in their last-16, first-leg match.
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