A SPANISH team arrived at Anfield with a healthy lead in the second leg of a Champions League tie. And there, the comparisons with Barcelona in 2019 end.
There was no gut-wrenching, head-spinning drama. No early Liverpool goal to get the pulses racing. No fans inside the Kop to suck the ball into the goal in the second half.
Mo Salah failed to inspire Liverpool to victory at Anfield as the Reds crashed out of the Champions LeagueCredit: Reuters
There was no moment of quicking-thinking wizardry from a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner to set up a tie-clinching Divock Origi goal.
True to form, there were some Liverpool fans making idiots of themselves with the visiting team bus, so you cannot expect everything to be different.
But history repeating itself was never on the cards.
Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 in the second leg of the semi-finals two years was always going to be a Champions League one-off. It will take its place in history as a one-off.
Zinedine Zidane’s team which simply loves the big occasion, simply had a bit too much nous. For the second season in succession, Liverpool have been bundled out of the competition by a team from Madrid.
They huffed, puffed and created enough chances to put themselves in the driving seat.
But this is no longer the team which won the Champions League in 2019, or which was the best team in England.
Real did enough with a performance which was far from brilliant but stubborn enough to get the job done.
Jurgen Klopp cut a dejected figure on the touchlineCredit: EPA
James Milner saw a rare effort saved by Courtois in the first halfCredit: PA
Although Sergio Ramos was injured before testing positive for Covid-19, Nacho took his place and won some key challenges. Casemiro, Real’s impressive midfield enforcer, also made his presence felt.
While the bus ride into Anfield was not much fun, it was an otherwise comfortable evening for the 13-times winners who will now face Chelsea.
Seven of Klopp’s starting XI also lined up in the 2018 final in Kiev, which resulted in a 3-1 win for Real.
The first 45 minutes, in particular, was like the Liverpool of old, some good, high intensity football although they were guilty of missing some decent chances.
In that famous night against Barcelona, Liverpool started incredibly well with Origi scoring the first of his two goals in the seventh minute.
And just one minute and 59 seconds into the match last night, Mo Salah should have scored but instead of bursting the net, sent a weak left-footed effort into the leg of keeper Thibaut Courtois.
It was the best chance of the night and one Salah will regret.
Former Chelsea keeper Courtois launched himself high to the left to keep out a cracking effort from James Milner, the stand-in captain for the injured Jordan Henderson, a player Liverpool are desperately missing.
Liverpool struggled to score at Anfield once againCredit: EPA
Thibaut Courtois handled everything Liverpool threw at himCredit: EPA
And with Real never likely to leave too many gaps at the back, their attacks were rare.
In their first decent raid, Liverpool got lucky when a shot from Karim Benzema deflected off Ozan Kabak and hit the post.
Casemiro infuriated Liverpool by dumping Milner at the feet of Jurgen Klopp in the technical area and rightly earned a caution, although so did Andy Robertson for his reaction to the challenge.
In the space of a minute before half-time, both Salah and Gini Wijnaldum blazed decent chances over the bar. And true to form, Mane wanted a penalty after slipping without getting contact from anyone. Although a talent, this player really does not help himself.
Klopp will have not been unhappy with his team at half-time and will have told them to keep plugging away and remain patient, without doing anything stupid in defence.
And Firmino took just 40 second of the second half to test Courtois after a fantastic pass from Alexander-Arnold.
Although a scorer of big goals for Liverpool, Firmino has now scored just once in 20 Champions League games and his recent form for the team has been no better.
He also had another half-decent opportunity a couple of minutes later and had a shot brilliantly blocked by Eder Militao. But realistically, you get the feeling he could benefit with a new challenge and Liverpool should bring in another fresh face.
Trent Alexander-Arnold failed to provide his attacking qualitiesCredit: PA
Jurgen Klopp cut an animated figure as he watched his side struggle againCredit: Reuters
Klopp introduced Diogo Jota and Thiago in the hope of sparking a change but still Liverpool ran into a sea of white shirts.
It was a better performance when you look at some of the rubbish they served up at home in the Premier League during 2021.
But defensively, Real were just a little too solid and saw out the final few minutes without any dramas.
Ultimately, Liverpool paid a heavy price for their terrible performance a week earlier when all the damage was done at Real ‘s training ground.
So now, Klopp must concentrate on the League and try to qualify for this competition next season.
After four years in the Champions League, it will really hurt the Reds if they are forced to return into the Europa League, Europa Conference League or potentially, no Europe at all.
Maybe Real march on in Europe, yet again. They no longer have any true Galacticos, but you would not bet against Ramos lifting the trophy again this year.
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