This is called finding colors. After two consecutive knockouts in the round of 16, unworthy of his status, and a difficult qualification for the knockout phase this season, Real Madrid sent a strong signal this Tuesday evening against another heavyweight in European football. The Merengue not only beat Liverpool in the quarter-final first leg of the Champions League (3-1), but above all they displayed a superiority that they almost seemed to have lost.
A very convincing first period
Zinédine Zidane’s players built their success in the first half by punishing a Liverpool as clumsy as it was harmless (no shot attempted by the Reds in the first act). Regularly criticized for his poor choices and his lack of realism, it was Vinicius Junior who opened the scoring by taking advantage of a magical opening from Toni Kroos behind the opposing defense (27th). And barely ten minutes later, Marco Asensio played him opportunist after a suicidal handover from Trent Alexander-Arnold, taking it in two steps to beat Alisson (36th).
Able to plan very quickly for recovery and to punish his opponent at the slightest of his mistakes, Real Madrid displayed in this first period characteristics that were its strength in its last glorious campaigns. Cristiano Ronaldo is no longer there. Marcelo’s hyperactivity seems to belong to a bygone era. This Tuesday evening, Raphaël Varane – positive for Covid-19 – and Sergio Ramos – injured – could not hold their place on the meadow. However, since the return of Zinédine Zidane on the bench, his team had never sported a face so close to that of his last coronation in 2018.
So maybe the return to favor of the trio in midfield, Kroos-Casemiro-Modric, has something to do with it. Faced with apathetic Liverpool with the ball, the three men gave a football lesson. And it was not well noted by the Reds. Already decisive passer on the opening goal, Toni Kroos was not attacked either to initiate the streak of the second goal on another opening of which he has the secret.
The other strength of Real has been to know how to respond after a moment of weakness. If Liverpool reduced the score after returning from the locker room thanks to a billiard shot from Mohamed Salah (51st), Vinicius Junior struck again to give a break in advance to the Merengue (65th), served in an armchair by Luka Modric. As the Reds returned to the game, in part thanks to Thiago Alcantara’s entry into a conductor role, their ardor was quickly extinguished.
The goal conceded at home will undoubtedly remain a big drawback before the return to Anfield on April 14. But, this evening will surely have rekindled the flame in the White House after two disappointing seasons.