What started so brightly eventually turned into a bizarre match with a preposterous scoreline, as early energy and goals was eventually overturned by... dark magic?
Liverpool came sprinting out of the blocks at Anfield and had Real Madrid on their heels from the word go, scoring in the fourth minute through an audacious Darwin Núñez backheel before Mohamed Salah capitalised on a rare mistake from a flustered Thiabult Courtois, but a Vinicius worldie from nothing and an outrageous Alisson blunder handed the visitors the an even score at the half.
A set piece goal to start the second period was followed by a meek effort that was barely goalbound being deflected past Alisson by a stretching Joe Gomez, and a few dismissed penalty shouts later, Carlo Ancelotti’s men put the nail in the coffin with a very pretty counter attack.
Below, then, we call out some winners and losers on the night and separate fact from fiction.
Galacticos: Listen, Real Madrid were pretty good tonight. After shaking off the shock of the initial onslaught, they rallied well and played their way back into the game, keeping possession under pressure and denying the Reds much in the way of clear cut chances.
They did not, however, run riot or blow the doors off or any other such cliche. By any metric, this was a close game, where Liverpool had more possession, took more shots, created more big chances, and generated more expected goals than their opponents, but the visitors maximised their opportunities to an obscene degree — 5 goals from 1.6 xG is outrageous any way you cut it — and when they didn’t expertly control the unexpected result, were handed just enough assistance from an otherwise solid referee, who waved away a pair of solid penalty shouts for the home side in the second half.
They win when they should and they win when they shouldn’t. Hard not to hate them.
Trophy Ambitions: The Champions League represents Liverpool’s last at all realistic shot at picking up more silverware this season, and given how experienced this Real Madrid side is, the notion of the Reds overturning a three goal deficit — even now that away goals are no longer a thing — is an extremely fanciful one.
Sure, at Anfield, getting an early goal and getting the crowd roaring can upset a Spanish giant, we’ve memorably witnessed that before, but away, with a squad low on confidence, against a team that is apparently no longer capable of losing knockout ties in this competition, it’s not one you should be getting your hopes up for.
We’ll be here three weeks from now, though, hoping.
That first goal: Absolutely delightful from Darwin, that, utterly bamboozling a wrong-footed Courtois with a cheeky back-heel to open the scoring, notching in his fourth consecutive Champions League match for the Reds, and now it’ll simply be a footnote instead of the grand moment it had deserved to be.
To be fair, it’s the second time this season he’s scored that exact goal, so odds are it’ll be crowning a grand moment at some point. Fingers crossed.
What Happens Next
The Reds travel to London to take on 12th placed Crystal Palace on Saturday, before they play host to... Wolves? No, that can’t be right. What is this groundhog day bullshit? What’s next, another goddamn Brighton match? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
Anyway, that’s on Wednesday, and if Liverpool clear those obstacles, they get to duke it out with Manchester Utd for a top four spot the weekend after. Joy.