with Benzema, Real dismisses Liverpool and climbs into the quarters
Formality for Real Madrid: thanks to a goal from Karim Benzema, the reigning European champion eliminated Liverpool and validated his ticket for the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday at the Santiago-Bernabéu (1- 0), after his demonstration of the first leg (5-2).
All in control, the “Kings of Europe” had many chances, but it was not until the 78th minute that Benzema managed to break through the Alisson wall, taking advantage of a dragging ball slipped by Vinicius, after a very nice pass filtered by Eduardo Camavinga through the English defense.
But the French goleador grimaced immediately after scoring: returning from a minor ankle injury after a week’s absence, Real’s “Nueve” asked for a change in stride and limped off, visibly touched in an ankle, again.
“A little pain, a blow, nothing serious,” reassured the Frenchman after the match.
Despite this snag, the “White House” became on Wednesday with Naples (winner of Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0) the last team to join the C1 quarters, and will know their opponent for the next round in Friday’s draw at Nyon (Switzerland).
– Camavinga, the nice surprise –
As expected, the Italian wizard with four Champions Leagues (a record) learned the lesson of last year against Chelsea, and drew a less defensive and more player pattern. Winners 3-1 in the first leg, the “Merengues” had been pushed to extra time by the “Blues”, but Benzema, like Wednesday, had qualified his team, for the semi-finals this time, thanks to a goal in extra time (96th).
“What happened last season gave us immense confidence. And that showed in this double confrontation”, underlined “Carletto” after the match.
On Wednesday, the French center-forward, who often teamed up with the untenable Vinicius, could have opened the scoring earlier (14th, 52nd, 69th), but was regularly caught offside.
And the Brazilian blaster from Real was one of the first to alert the Brazilian goalkeeper from Liverpool in the 14th, with a recovery at the far post, miraculously released by Alisson.
Camavinga, surprise starter in midfield in place of his French compatriot Aurélien Tchouaméni, also brought a sigh to the Bernabéu a few minutes later (20th): his heavy shot, from twenty-five meters, was grazed by Alisson then crashed into the crossbar.
And amidst it all, Liverpool also had their chances of closing the four-goal gap that separated them from the quarters before kick-off. But neither Mohamed Salah (7th), nor Diogo Jota (18th), nor Cody Gakpo (26th), nor Darwin Nunez (33rd) managed to cross Thibaut Courtois, impeccable.
– The love story continues –
It must be said that a defeat by more than three goals at the Bernabéu was highly unlikely: according to the Spanish statistician MisterChip, Real lost only eleven of their 1,777 matches at the Bernabéu by more than three goals. And none in European competitions.
“We needed to put in an outstanding performance to make up the difference… and we didn’t put in an outstanding performance. We had a good game, but Real were in control the whole time. Real were huge, that’s why they came through,” summed up Jurgen Klopp in a post-match press conference.
On Wednesday, for its 300th Champions League match, Real Madrid therefore offered a full evening to its supporters: after the “Champions of Miracles” last year, the 14th in the history of the club, the history of love between the “Big Ears Cup” and the Spanish club continues.
For its part, Liverpool, dropped in the title race in the league (6th at 24 points from Arsenal), and eliminated from all other competitions, now has almost nothing left to play for. Klopp will have to try to keep his group mobilized to try to grab the top 4 in the Premier League, synonymous with qualification for the next edition of the Champions League. Fourth-placed Tottenham are six points behind the Reds.