Actual Madrid might have spent the evening on the Titanic resort upon their arrival on Merseyside, however it was Liverpool who sank on Wednesday, with Zinedine Zidane’s patched-up aspect crusing by means of to the Champions League semi-finals.
On the 109th anniversary of the maritime catastrophe, Madrid dropped anchor at Anfield and wouldn’t let Jurgen Klopp’s heavy-pressing aspect be the iceberg they proved for rivals Barcelona two seasons in the past.
Just like the Catalans, Madrid took a result in Merseyside, a 3-1 first-leg benefit. However the Blancos solely had one in every of their first-choice defenders accessible in Ferland Mendy.
With Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vazquez injured, and Alvaro Odriozola regarded a menace to his personal aspect by Madrid coach Zidane, Fede Valverde began as a makeshift right-back.
With out injured captain Sergio Ramos and the imperial Raphael Varane, Madrid paired Nacho and Eder Militao collectively once more and hoped for the perfect.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois needed to produce two top-drawer saves within the opening levels, as Liverpool tried to benefit from Uruguay midfielder Valverde’s inexperience in defence.
The Belgian reacted nicely to disclaim Mohamed Salah after he was arrange by Sadio Mane, after which clawed away a James Milner roller which was ducking into his high nook.
After weathering the preliminary storm, Madrid discovered steadiness slowly however absolutely, and Karim Benzema rattled the put up to warn the hosts, whereas first leg man-of-the-match Vinicius Junior burst into life at times on the counter.
In a intentionally gray and stern efficiency from Los Blancos, he was the one Madrid participant to supply vivid moments of aptitude. For everyone else, it was simply enterprise.
Zidane regarded on approvingly as Casemiro scythed Milner all the way down to the bottom, exhibiting Madrid weren’t going to cower within the wake of Liverpool’s spectacular first-half power.
Reds’ supporters will argue they have been all the way down to the naked bones too in defence, however Nacho and Militao’s very good defending helped maintain their attacking trident at bay.
Salah, Mane and Firmino, whereas not at their finest in 2021, are nonetheless one of many world’s most harmful frontlines and, with the very good Casemiro as a protect, Madrid’s defence was capable of maintain them off.
Valverde produced an important block from Firmino within the second half to take care of Madrid’s two-goal benefit and cease any wobbles earlier than Courtois denied Salah once more in stoppage time to kill Liverpool’s final hopes.
The ex-Chelsea goalkeeper has by no means misplaced at Anfield and he was not about to begin now. His reward – a confrontation together with his former employers from west London.
On paper, the hosts ought to have been capable of breach Madrid’s defence, however Zidane’s very good administration has galvanised the group’s back-ups.
One of many biggest man-managers within the recreation, he has geed up even these gamers who’ve spent the season on the fringes – Odriozola apart.
Like after the restart final season, Madrid have reached the run-in able to grind their manner in the direction of glory. With out Eden Hazard, they haven’t any nice creator to produce Benzema, so Zidane is sticking to what he is aware of works.
And it did at Anfield, with a dour, skilled second half simply what the physician ordered for the report 13-time champions.
Nacho and Militao have been spectacular sufficient to make Ramos sweat over his contract calls for, whereas Valverde handed his private check.
With Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro immovable in midfield, Valverde will take game-time the place he can get it, so long as he can play a component in Madrid’s cost in the direction of a possible double.
And after the right week, that quest stays firmly on target.