Actual Madrid could have spent the night time on the Titanic lodge upon their arrival on Merseyside, however it was Liverpool who sank on Wednesday, with Zinedine Zidane’s patched-up aspect crusing by 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 obtainable 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 reap the benefits of 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 prime nook.
After weathering the preliminary storm, Madrid discovered stability slowly however certainly, and Karim Benzema rattled the publish to warn the hosts, whereas first leg man-of-the-match Vinicius Junior burst into life from time to time 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, displaying Madrid weren’t going to cower within the wake of Liverpool’s spectacular first-half vitality.
Reds’ supporters will argue they had been all the way down to the naked bones too in defence, however Nacho and Militao’s very good defending helped preserve their attacking trident at bay.
Salah, Mane and Firmino, whereas not at their greatest 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 a vital block from Firmino within the second half to keep up 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 along 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 staff’s back-ups.
One of many best man-managers within the sport, 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 direction of glory. With out Eden Hazard, they don’t have 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 document 13-time champions.
Nacho and Militao had been spectacular sufficient to make Ramos sweat over his contract calls for, whereas Valverde handed his private take a look at.
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 direction of a possible double.
And after the proper week, that quest stays firmly on the right track.