Well that was... something.
Liverpool put out a lineup that didn't include any of Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Dejan Lovren, or Philippe Coutinho. Predictably, Liverpool looked thoroughly outclassed by Real Madrid, but a hard-working performance by the Reds meant that even at the Bernabeu, Liverpool kept the match respectable.
While Liverpool struggled to put together much of a threat going forward in the first half, they were at least able to hold Real at bay... for the most part. Shaky moments in the heart of defense did give los Merengues a handful of early chances, but luckily Simon Mignolet was up the the challenge time and again.
That's how more or less the whole first half would go. Real Madrid dance around the box; Mignolet would make a save; Liverpool would try to do something; either the midfield would turn it over or a long ball to the front three would go awry. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Then Kolo Toure lost Karim Benzema at the far post, and a cross from Marcelo was banged in. Whoops.
Liverpool started defending with a bit more determination after that, constricting Madrid's chances and looking to strike on a counter attack. While their defending got better, they still struggled to consistently get the ball to their attackers, and when they did the attack was too often blunted by a lack of support.
The second half saw Liverpool slowly grow more in to the match in terms of their attack in the second half, finally getting shots on target and causing genuine threat, but for the most part Real's defenders were able to cut out their attacks before there was too much danger. Raphael Varane in particular was impressive for the home side, keeping Lazar Markovic in his pocket, and giving Raheem Sterling and Fabio Borini fits at other times.
Real would have a few more chances in the second half, most notably on a free kick late on when Gareth Bale was brought down at the edge of the penalty area by a very lucky Alberto Moreno, who was spared a denial-of-goalscoring-chance red card only by Bale not running directly at goal, as well as the ball only being a yard or so outside the penalty area. Mignolet was still up to the task of saving everything that came his way, though, and Bale's resulting free kick was no different.
Despite the rotation that many expected would lead to a heavy defeat for Liverpool, they managed to keep the match well in hand. Part of that perhaps stemmed from a Madrid attack that seemed less driven than normal for much of the match, but impressive netminding by Mignolet (as long as you ignore what he did when the ball was at his feet), and impressive defensive work in midfield from Lucas Leiva and Emre Can for the first hour of the match helped keep things close, and then Liverpool were able to push for an equalizer later on. It didn't come, but this was still a much different match than most people expected beforehand.
Still, no matter the respectability, a loss is a loss. In the Champions League, every loss hurts all the more, especially when Liverpool's rival for the second spot in the group, FC Basel, won 4-0 on the day and took the driver's seat in the race to make the knockout rounds behind Madrid. That puts a massive amount of pressure on Liverpool to put get big wins against Basel and Ludogorets in order to have a shot at advancing, a task that will not be easy given Liverpool's European form this season.
Fingers crossed, but things aren't looking rosy for Liverpool's chances to advance to the knockout rounds.