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Karim Benzema has sent a stark warning to every team left in the Champions League saying that he and his teammates “want the Champions League again”. The French centre-forward was at his mercurial best last night as Real Madrid came from 2-0 down to beat Liverpool 5-2 at Anfield in the first leg of their round of 16 tie.
Benzema chipped in with two goals as Carlo Ancelotti’s men fought back at Anfield, with Vinicius Junior and Eder Militao also getting on the scoresheet. Benzema won the Ballon d’Or last year after helping Los Blancos to their 14th Champions League triumph and he has now set his sights on winning it again. Speaking to reporters after the game at Anfield he said:
“We played with personality, we produced goals – we want this Champions League again. We produced a match which was lovely to play in and for those who were watching. After those first 15 minutes, we saw the true Real Madrid. Football at this level is hard – they started better than us but this was a big game and we were ready.”
Two early goals from Darwin Nunez and Mo Salah gave the home side a 2-0 advantage and with the Anfield crowd in full voice, it looked as if Liverpool were going to enjoy another famous European night. Unfortunately for them, the experienced Real Madrid team woke up and took control of the match.
A dominant second half
The match was finely poised at halftime thanks to two goals from Vinicius Jr. The Brazilian was electric throughout and caused Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez serious problems time and time again. He scored twice but in reality, he could have had a couple more.
While the first half was end-to-end chaos, the second was pure dominance from the away side. Ancelotti had clearly instructed his team to start pressing the Liverpool midfield more and Luke Modric got a grip of the match.
🎥 Benzema cam for his second goal
— MadridistaTV (@madridistatvYT) February 22, 2023
The Croatian was at the heart of everything good that the Spanish side did in the second 45 minutes and was instrumental in the third and fifth goals. Despite being 37-year-old, Modric shows no signs of slowing down and is still one of the best players in the world.
After the game, ex-Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard reserved special praise for Modric and Benzema, saying that the pair of them “perform on a completely different level from most players.”
The two managers, however, focused on Vinicius Junior and the impact he made on the first leg at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp labelled him as “of the best player in the world” while Carlo Ancelotti said:
“Right now, Vinicius Junior is the most decisive player anywhere in the world – the one who determines matches on most on a consistent basis.”
After the match, Jurgen Klopp admitted that he felt like the tie was over and that Liverpool were effectively already out of the competition. However, they have come back from similar deficits before, albeit when they’ve had a second leg at Anfield to look forward to.
If Liverpool are to turn it around then they are going to have to score at least three times at the Bernabeu. This on its own is going to be incredibly difficult to do, not to mention the fact they will also need to keep the likes of Benzema and Vinicius out at the other end.