Vinicius Brace Propels Madrid in 2018 Champions League Final Remake

It ended just like three years ago in the Champions League Final in Kyiv. Real Madrid and Liverpool squared off again in a top European competition match-up – this time a Quarter Final – but the outcome didn’t change as Zinedine Zidane’s Merengues came up again with a precious 3-1 victory.

Three years ago, it had been Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius’ disastrous performance to pave the way for Madrid’s last European triumph. Tonight, it was the whole defensive line of the Reds – who missed Virgil Van Dijk and Jordan Henderson – to cooperate to make things easier for the home side, who made it to the scoresheet twice with Vinicius Junior and once with Marco Asensio.

Mohamed Salah scored Liverpool’s only goal that will keep alive their hopes of overcoming the two-goal deficit next week, when the two sides will meet again at Anfield in the Quarter Finals second leg.

Both sides came into the match at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium with several absentees, especially at the back. Jurgen Klopp’s struggles in defense are well known, but even Zinedine Zidane had to work hard to patch up a four-man defense that missed Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal, and Raphael Varane.

After 25 minutes of balance, Real Madrid put their heads ahead thanks to a brilliant Toni Kroos invention and an equally beautiful finish from Vinicius Junior. The Brazilian starlet grabbed Kroos’ long-range cross that leapt beyond the Reds defensive line and bested Nathaniel Phillips before beating Alisson Becker with a clinical right-foot shot. 

Los Blancos‘ goal put the home side in control of a game that had appeared balanced so far. Zidane’s side’s pressure exposed all the limits of a defense that conceded 36 goals domestically so far as Liverpool quickly found themselves trailing by two.

Right back Trent Alexander-Arnold was not having a great game already but his attempted back pass on 35 minutes to defuse another Toni Kroos cross was inconceivable. Marco Asensio could hardly believe it as he intercepted the ball and eluded Alisson’s desperate exit to place it into the back of the net for the second time. 

On 42 minutes, Jurgen Klopp decided for a change as Thiago Alcantara replaced Naby Keita. But things didn’t seem to improve for the visitors, who even risked conceding the third when Ozan Kabak’s lopsided clearance prompted another shooting chance for Asensio. This time, Alisson somehow managed to save.

It was up to Mohamed Salah to give Liverpool a new hope as the Egyptian didn’t waste the chance served to him by Diogo Jota and Georginio Wijnaldum, making it 1-2 after 6 minutes of play into the second half.

Jurgen Klopp’s troops gained some confidence and, around the one-hour mark, it took a phenomenal Ferland Mendy defensive clearance to deny Sadio Mané’s conversion from point-blank range. 

But right when the Reds were seemed to be able to equalize, Vinicius punished them again as he found the back of the net with another right-shot on which Alisson could have done better – though covered by Phillips. From then on, it was easy for Madrid to preserve their lead as they switched to cruise control mode and didn’t suffer any additional threat from the English side.

Liverpool will need to win 2-0 next week at Anfield to book an unlikely place into the Champions League Semi Finals, while all Real Madrid will have to do is defend their double lead. A season that started on the wrong foot is suddenly taking a different turn for the Merengues, who find themselves back in contention for La Liga title and close to make their return among the European Top Four after three seasons.   



April 6, 2021 – Champions League 2020-21 Quarter Finals

SCORER: 27′ Vinicius (R), 36′ Asensio (R), 51′ Salah (L), 65′ Asensio (R)

REAL MADRID (4-3-3): Courtois, Lucas Vázquez, Militao, Nacho, Mendy; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Asensio (70′ Valverde), Benzema, Vinicius (85’ Rodrygo) (Lunin, Altube, Vieira, Odriozola, Isco, Mariano Diaz, Arribas, Chust) Coach: Zidane
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Kabak (81’ Roberto Firmino), Philips, Robertson; Keïta (42′ Thiago Alcantara), Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Diogo Jota (81’ Shaqiri), Mané (Adriàn, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Tsimikas, B. Davies, Williams, H. Davies, Cain) Coach: Klopp

REFEREE: Brych (Germany)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Vazquez (R), Mané, Alexander-Arnold, Thiago Alcantara (L); Extra Time: First Half 0′, Second Half 5′