Despite holding a two-goal lead over Real Madrid, Liverpool suffered their heaviest home defeat in European history on Tuesday night as the Champions League holders came from behind to win 5-2 at Anfield.
No away team had ever scored more than three goals in a European match at the famous stadium when Real won 3-0 in October 2014, but were put to the sword by the Spanish giants in the second half.
Real Madrid were flustered and panicked in the opening exchanges of the last-16 first leg, conceding two early goals, but regained their composure by scoring five unanswered goals in a disastrous night for Liverpool and their Champions League hopes.
On a typically charged European night under the Anfield lights, the Reds got off to an electric start, putting Real under pressure with ferocious pressing and lightning-quick attacks.
Their efforts were rewarded with a fantastic goal within the first four minutes. Mohamed Salah tripped Darwin Nunes and the Uruguayan produced an audacious strike that deceived Thibaut Courtois and sent the home side into a frenzy.
Vinicius Junior showed flashes of intent down the left flank, but the Real superstars looked a little overwhelmed by the energy and drive of their opponents as Cody Gakpo’s run set up Salah, who deflected his effort wide of the near post.
A few minutes later, he made no mistake when Courtois spectacularly failed to control a back-pass and flicked the ball from his knee into the path of Salah, who had the simplest of tasks to tap into the unmanned net.
Liverpool looked flat and dangerous on the counter, but Real’s run to last season’s final was decided by their never-say-die attitude and that tenacity was on display again in the 21st minute when danger man Vinicius darted in and struck hard. effort into the far corner.
The Merseysiders came close to restoring their two-goal lead after a goal-line clash, but Real began to roar at the other end. Alisson produced a superb save to deny Vinicius a repeat of his earlier goal, before Federico Valverde was angered after a sharp move.
In a crazy, exciting game that alternated between the sublime and the ridiculous, it seemed only fitting that Real should tie it up with another blunder when Alisson missed straight at Vinicius and then watched in disbelief as the ball rolled away up and over it. empty net.
Real looked almost certain to take the lead at half-time when Valverde released Vinicius, who curled a superb pass at Rodrigo’s far post, but Andy Robertson produced a stunning last-ditch effort to prevent a goal just as the Brazilian went close. to tap the ball in.
But Real Madrid took just a few minutes after the restart to take the lead for the first time. Vinicius was brought down on the edge of the box by Joe Gomez and Luka Modric’s free-kick from close range was powerfully struck into the net by an unmarked Eder Militao.
Liverpool had lost much of their early attack and intensity by this point, trailing by two goals in the 55th minute. On the edge of the box, Karim Benzema and Rodrigo exchanged passes before the Frenchman’s rather tame shot deflected off Gomez and into the middle of the goal, with Alisson already committed to his dive.
Jurgen Klopp was stunned in the dugout and his side’s strike was exacerbated by a superb goal from the visitors after 12 minutes.
Real Madrid had a three-on-two situation as Modric burst through the pitch, leaving Liverpool’s midfielders in his wake. The Croatian fed Vinicius, who came on for Benzema, and the Frenchman set up Alisson before calmly heading the ball into the top corner despite a wall of Liverpool defenders retreating on the line.
In reality, Liverpool did little to reduce the deficit after that and struggled to press, with the energy drained from Anfield, while Real were content to hang on to their comfortable lead.
The result is only the third time Liverpool have conceded five goals at home this century and leaves the Merseysiders in need of another Champions League miracle, this time at the Bernabeu in three weeks’ time, to progress to the quarter-finals of the competition.