The biggest game of the season so far arrived at quite an awkward time for Real Madrid. Not only were they without key players such as Eden Hazard, Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal due to injury – they now had to deal with the sudden withdrawal of Raphaël Varane earlier today after news of him falling ill with COVID-19. Castilla defender Víctor Chust replaced him in the squad, but it was Éder Militão who was called upon to replace Varane in the starting line-up alongside Nacho. Lucas Vázquez was summoned to right-back, whilst the rest of the team remained standard. Liverpool had to deal with some forced changes of their own, which made the sides appear pretty even at first glance.
Despite the key injuries, the Real Madrid players perfectly demonstrated their experience of occasions such as this from the onset. The team set a calm tone which allowed them to settle early and produce a controlled first half performance. Vinícius Júnior showed that he was in the mood to impress, whilst Karim Benzema hit the first chance of the game low at Alisson. Two instances of high quality led to the first goal for Madrid, as Toni Kroos picked out Vinícius with an impeccable long range pass over the top. The Brazilian did excellently to control the ball into space with his chest, before approaching Alisson and picking his spot into the goal. Ten minutes later a mistake led to a second. Alexander-Arnold for some reason headed another Kroos overhead pass towards the keeper, but it was met first by Marco Asensio who lifted the ball over Alisson’s head before tapping into the open net. Asensio could have had another from a similar instance not long later, with Kabak the culprit this time, but the Spaniard could not hit the target again. Liverpool failed to create anything significant during the entire first half, and Madrid comfortably saw out the half with the 2-0 scoreline intact.
Toni Kroos, stop that! Stop that right now!
Vinícius finishes the move off strongly and Real Madrid lead! ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/w2J9ciokiI
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 6, 2021
The tie changed within minutes of the start of the second half. The visitors benefitted from some immense fortune, as Andrew Robertson flew forward and had a shot blocked – only for it to land straight to Mohamed Salah in a position kept onside only by Lucas Vázquez. The shot bounced off of Courtois before hitting the bar and finally bouncing in to make it 2-1. Liverpool continued to look dangerous, and could have been level if not for a vital touch away from Jota by Mendy. Madrid did not completely cower away, and maintained their search for goals, as Asensio was denied by a good save. This still led to a goal however, as Luka Modrić found Vinícius Júnior who once again found the net nicely. Liverpool tried to bite back further, but failed to do so.
This is obviously a huge result for Real Madrid – who are now one game away from yet another Champions League semi-final. This result could also set the scene for an unthinkable season comeback, with an impending Clásico deciding their league fate. Within the next two weeks, they could find themselves top of the La Liga, with a ‘favourable’ route to the final alongside. It could also of course go the other way, with everything still to play for, so it is important to stay reserved until then. Liverpool do have the away goal, and have famously managed a couple of impossible comebacks before… For all of his critics, this had to be one of Vinícius Júnior’s best performances for Real Madrid so far. Even in aspects such as finishing in which he has been noticeably weak. For me he gets the man of the match title, but who would you give it to? And were you surprised at this result?