Real Madrid 1-0 Liverpool (6-2 agg): Karim Benzema ensures Reds exit Champions League with a whimper
Karim Benzema scored the only goal of the game as Real Madrid made light work of Liverpool to progress into the Champions League quarter-finals.
While there remained the very slight chance the visitors could mount the kind of stunning comeback for which they’ve become European royalty until Benzema’s strike 12 minutes from time, it was thanks only to Alisson Becker rather than Jurgen Klopp’s frontline.
The Brazilian pulled off stunning saves to deny both Eduardo Camavinga and Vinicius Jr in the first-half to keep the distant notion of a turnaround a remote possibility.
Klopp’s time at Liverpool has been just as much about a relentless intensity as it has been quality on the pitch. It has been the great intangible of his tenure but, as has been the case so often this season, that fire has long since been doused down to its lowest ember.
A four-man forward line of Darwin Nunez, Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Cody Gakpo represented an ambitious set-up, though only in theory. Rarely did any of them threaten, albeit more quality in the final third from Salah would have freed Nunez for a clean run on goal not long after the interval.
Liverpool simply did not look like they believed a comeback was possible and, in the 78th minute, Benzema proved them right. The great French striker tapped in from close range after a simple pass from Luka Modric split the Reds in half, causing chaos in backline who hardly need much invitation to collapse.
Ibrahima Konate could not clear lines, allowing Benzema the easiest of goals against what is proving to be the easiest of opponents for Madrid.