Liverpool 2-5 Real Madrid: Ruthless holders roar back to take command in Anfield thriller

By Sports Desk February 21, 2023

Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema heaped more Champions League pain on Liverpool as Real Madrid produced a storming fightback to secure a stunning 5-2 victory at Anfield.

Darwin Nunez's sublime flick and Mohamed Salah's strike following a Thibaut Courtois howler gave the Reds a two-goal lead only 14 minutes into a dramatic first leg of the round-of-16 tie on Tuesday.

That proved to be a false dawn as the holders stormed back in a rematch of last year's final, Vinicius pulling one back with a classy finish before a bad mistake from Alisson gifted him a second goal in an enthralling first half.

Eder Militao headed Madrid in front early in the second half before Benzema's double gave Carlo Ancelotti's ruthless side a commanding advantage to take back to the Spanish capital for the second leg on March 15.

Nunez produced a moment of magic in the fourth minute to put the hosts in front, meeting Salah's whipped ball with an audacious right-foot flick that flashed past Courtois.

Courtois endured a nightmare 10 minutes later, controlling a back past on his chest before the ball bounced off his knee to present Salah with a simple chance to double Liverpool's lead.

Madrid looked like they did not know what had hit them, but Vinicius halved the deficit in the 21st minute by showing excellent close control in the box before bending a sumptuous right-foot finish into the bottom corner.

The winger was celebrating in front of The Kop again nine minutes before the break after Alisson's terrible attempted pass struck his Brazil team-mate and looped into the net.

Madrid lost David Alaba to injury during a pulsating first half which they would have ended with a lead had Andy Robertson not shown great awareness to deny Rodrygo a tap-in.

Los Blancos were in front two minutes into the second half, though, when an unmarked Militao capitalised on terrible defending to head in the influential Luka Modric's free-kick.

An evening that had started well then took another turn for the worse for Liverpool, with Benzema's shot striking Joe Gomez and giving a wrong-footed Alisson no chance.

Liverpool were opened up again after 67 minutes, Modric and Vinicius combining before Benzema sat Alisson down and demonstrated great composure to finish with his left foot.

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    Ahead of the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup semi-final against Hearts at Hampden Park on Sunday, Clement asked for the backing of the Gers fans who were left so frustrated.

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