Liverpool’s Champions League hopes ended at the hands of Real Madrid for a third consecutive season as they failed to overcome their first-leg Anfield demolition.
The Reds, who lost the first leg 5-2, lined up with four forwards at the Bernabeu as they looked to add another famous comeback to their fabled European history.
But that rarely looked on the cards and legendary Real striker Karim Benzema put the tie beyond doubt when he tucked in from Vinicius Jr’s cutback late on.
Jurgen Klopp’s side would have lost this game by more if not for Alisson.
The Reds goalkeeper denied Vinicius and Eduardo Camavinga with magnificent first-half stops.
If Darwin Nunez had taken a chance in the sixth minute, then it could have been a different story.
Liverpool players walked off to ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ on the Bernabeu speakers as they reflected on their biggest ever aggregate Champions League defeat.
The Reds were beaten finalists against Real last summer but now face a battle to even be in the tournament next season, sitting six points behind the Champions League places.
One downside for Carlo Ancelotti’s Real was Benzema hurting himself while scoring and having to be replaced, four days before their must-win El Clasico with Barcelona.
No miracle of Madrid
This was the 92nd time a team have lost by three or more goals in the first leg at home in a European Cup tie. All 92 have been eliminated.
Data analysts Gracenote gave Liverpool a 3.92% probability of progression and Jurgen Klopp talked about a “1% chance” beforehand.
That was the challenge they faced after Madrid put on an exhibition of taking their chances at Anfield.
But still, this is Liverpool and this is the Champions League.
In 2005 they came from 3-0 down to beat Ancelotti’s Milan in the Champions League final. Three years ago they lost 3-0 to Barcelona and won the second leg 4-0, although crucially that was at home.
Liverpool gave it a go – they had to – with forwards Diogo Jota, Nunez, Mohamed Salah and Cody Gakpo in their line-up.
Had Nunez scored after six minutes instead of shooting at Thibaut Courtois, who knows what might have happened. The Uruguayan forced another two saves from the goalkeeper, most notably with a fine curling effort after cutting in from the left wing.
But really they were lucky to only lose this leg 1-0. There was no gung-ho, ‘heavy metal’, blockbuster attempt to go and win it.
They did not even have a shot between James Milner’s blocked effort in the 37th minute and Harvey Elliott’s attempt on target after 82 minutes.
It could have got slightly worse in injury time when referee Felix Zwayer went to the monitor to see if Konstantinos Tsimikas had handled the ball, but the decision was no penalty to Real.
So just like in last year’s final in Paris, and the previous season’s quarter-final, Real were Liverpool’s conquerors.
The Reds will undoubtedly finish this season trophy-less and it will be a huge blow to their future plans if they cannot overtake Newcastle and Tottenham to finish fourth in the Premier League come the end of the season.