Arriving at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and facing a three-goal deficit, Jurgen Klopp went all out by deploying four attackers in an attempt to inspire another miraculous European comeback for Liverpool.
That decision certainly played into an all-action start, with Darwin Nunez being denied by Thibaut Courtois before Alisson Becker miraculously stopped Vinicius Junior and Eduardo Camavinga in the opening 20 minutes. While Luka Modric’s ambitious strike didn’t work the goalkeeper, it certainly caught the eye as it fizzed marginally over.
Courtois was then called into action twice as he tipped venomous efforts from Nunez and Cody Gakpo wide. Even so, Liverpool didn’t provide the sustained aggression Klopp’s team selection had foreshadowed as the half drew to a close, although Los Blancos played a role in that as they masterfully established periods of control to take the sting out of the game.
That continued into the second period and Alisson came out to stop Federico Valverde after he had been played through by Benzema before the Frenchman saw a shot of his own blocked by Trent Alexander-Arnold.
With Los Blancos looking comfortable, Modric flicked the ball over Alexander-Arnold and delivered a cross to Valverde, who couldn’t quite apply the finishing touch as his header flicked off the roof of the net on its way behind.
Benzema was also unable to find the target after equally incisive play from Vinicius, with Liverpool’s energy levels slowly fading further as hopes of a comeback slipped away despite the scores being level on the night.
Rubbing salt in Liverpool wounds, Madrid went ahead on the night as Vinicius recovered from making a mess of his own shot to tee up Benzema for a simple goal, as Los Blancos marked their milestone of becoming the first club to play 300 Champions League games with a victory on their way to the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, Liverpool have suffered back-to-back losses and must now claw their way into the Premier League’s top-four if they are to play on the biggest stage next season.