Jurgen Klopp claimed Liverpool have a one per cent chance of making a splash at the Bernabeu.
In truth, it was more the odds against winning the National Lottery as the 14-time European champions strutted into the quarter-finals with Klopp’s men barely able to put a glove on them.
The Anfield manager had boldly urged the Red Army to book their hotels for the season finale in Istanbul after they were beaten by Carlo Ancelotti’s side in Paris last May.
But those words have looked foolhardy since Real’s 5-2 demolition job on Merseyside last month.
That Real Liverpool overplayed extensively in both games shows just how far the Reds have fallen since their quadruple days of pursuit last spring.
A miracle never seemed to be in sight, even before Karim Benzema’s late strike – his tenth against English opponents since the start of last season – extended Real’s comfortable first-leg lead.
It was the fourth time that Real ended Liverpool’s Champions League hopes under Klopp – twice in the final, twice in the knockout game.
And their crosstown rivals Atletico are the only other club to have eliminated the Reds from this competition in the Klopp era.
That result confirmed a season without silverware for Liverpool, who must now battle Tottenham, Newcastle, Brighton and Brentford for fourth place just to compete at that elite level next season.
They have been very inconsistent this campaign – but their form away from Anfield suggested this unlikely salvage mission would always be a non-starter.
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The knockout rounds of the Champions League have been so crazy in recent seasons that we almost expected extraordinary comebacks in the second leg.
Home and away games that looked like dead gums on paper rarely ended as such.
But this one was dead, all right. All it took was the princely duo of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric to establish his championship in midfield against a fading Fabinho and an aging James Milner and Klopp’s side never stood a serious chance.
Modric is actually a bit older than his 37-year-old colleague Milner, but he’s just so much better than Liverpool’s adorable Yorkshireman.
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Real missed a number of excellent chances and Alisson made some nice saves before Benzema finally found the net.
Ancelotti’s side were underrated in England last season when they beat each of the Premier League’s top three clubs – Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool – to clinch Old Big Ears again.
But neither City nor Chelsea will enjoy being paired with them in Friday’s quarter-final draw.
Liverpool’s monumental task was not helped by the absences of Jordan Henderson and Stefan Bajcetic – meaning a start for Milner, who played top-flight football before Bajcetic was born.
Miracles happen not infrequently in the Champions League but generally when the Miracle Workers are home in the second leg – with few better than Liverpool’s comeback from 3-0 against Barcelona in the 2019 semi-finals.
Who knew what to think of Liverpool – 7-0 winners against Manchester United and losers at Bournemouth since those two last met at Anfield?
It was unsurprisingly an attacking line-up from Klopp, with four specialist strikers, although Gakpo played a more reclusive role.
Real were as good as Ancelotti’s pre-match words, refusing to back down on his lead and it was lively end-to-end stuff.
Darwin Nunez had the best early chance – Salah shot clear and fed the Uruguayan whose shot was saved by Thibaut Courtois’ legs.
But Real started to brag – Modric and Kroos pulling their virtuoso strings section in the middle of the park – and Alisson was soon a busy man.
First stopping Vinicius from close range, the Brazilian tapped a 25-yarder from Eduardo Camavinga on the crossbar and saved with his feet from Vinicius after a luxurious first pass from Kroos.
Diogo Jota missed a decent volley for Liverpool but didn’t get the early goal they were craving.
However, Nunez passed Dani Carvajal, cutting in from the left and parrying a shot that Courtois missed. And Gakpo’s snap forced the Belgian to make another save.
These were fleeting moments of hope, but the Reds failed to grasp one, and meanwhile an unlikely mission looked almost impossible.
Federico Valverde won a tackle on the edge of Liverpool’s box and begged Alisson for another decent save.
Klopp, without many riches on the bench, sent in Roberto Firmino and Harvey Elliott for Nunez and Jota – but Real still created the best openings, Valverde couldn’t contain a free header from a Modric centre.
Benzema then shot across the finish line after a wagging Vincius run and it was a real miracle the champions hadn’t extended their lead in the standings before the 79th minute.
When the goal came, Vinicius even had time to fall down and recover before meeting Benzema to completely put the tie’s outcome in doubt.
Liverpool now face a serious battle to compete at this elite level again next season.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/7642028/real-madrid-liverpool-benzema-champions-league/ Real Madrid 1 Liverpool 0 (6-2 agg): The sad Reds fail to pull off another European miracle as they clash with old opponents