Daily Mail


Klopp crestfalle­n as tame exit sums up Liverpool’s season

- DOMINIC KING at the Bernabeu

LIVERPOOL crashed out of the Champions League after barely laying a glove on Real Madrid last night, ensuring they will end the season without a trophy.

Trailing 5-2 from the first leg at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp’s men conceded another goal to Karim Benzema after 78 minutes at the Bernabeu and offered little threat at the other end on a disappoint­ing night. Liverpool can « now focus solely on finishing in the top four.

AROUND the corner from the Plaza Mayor, where Liverpool fans sat at cafes soaking up the sunshine, a queue of several hundred people stretched down the Calle de Atocha towards the striking neo-Gothic Church of Holy Cross yesterday afternoon.

They had come to see the statue of San Judas Tadeo which resides there, and to lay their hands upon it for good luck.

The church was packed with worshipper­s. outside, streetsell­ers were hawking images of the saint. ‘Patron of impossible, lost and desperate causes,’ a sign next to some jewellery said. ‘Put the bracelet on your right hand, thinking of your request fervently.’

Wednesday is the favoured day to petition San Judas Tadeo, apparently. There did not appear to be any Liverpool supporters in the line. It was hard not to feel they were missing a trick.

After all, the talk for the last three weeks had been about lost causes. It had been about how Liverpool needed a miracle at the Santiago Bernabeu to overcome the 5- 2 deficit from their Champions League last-16 first leg thrashing at Anfield.

The idea of scoring four at the home of the holders felt like an impossible task even if Liverpool had the memory of past shocks in this competitio­n to provide hope.

And so there was much reminiscin­g about Istanbul and the miracle that happened there in 2005, the comeback from three goals down against AC Milan, the otherworld­ly save from Jerzy dudek late in the game that denied Andriy Shevchenko, the feeling you sometimes get that it was written in the stars that Liverpool would win that night.

There was the miracle of Anfield on May 7, 2019, too, the night when Liverpool put four goals past Lionel Messi and Barcelona in the second leg of a Champions League semi-final to overhaul a 3-0 deficit from the first leg.

remember the magic crackling round the stadium, too, the way Trent Alexander-Arnold tricked the Barcelona defence pretending to walk away from a corner before the decisive goal. Liverpool invoked just about every football miracle they could think of.

none of it mattered in the end, neither San Judas Tadeo and his lost causes, nor all those memories of past deliveranc­e. This was not one of those nights.

All the greatest comebacks in the competitio­n have been achieved by the team playing at home in the second leg and Liverpool could never quite summon the intensity they needed at the Bernabeu. Their chances of victory drifted away on the breeze of a balmy evening.

Maybe their requests were not fervent enough. More pertinentl­y, Madrid were just too good. Too good at Anfield and too good last night. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Eduardo Camavinga ran midfield last night and their endless class and elegance kept Liverpool at arm’s length.

Liverpool had chances but they never really laid a glove on their opponents. When Karim Benzema prodded in the night’s only goal 12 minutes from time to put the tie out of reach at 6-2 on aggregate, it was what Madrid deserved.

Maybe Liverpool have used up their share of miracles these past 20 years. now all that is left is the grim struggle to make the Premier League’s top four and try and qualify for the Champions League next season. They are six points behind Tottenham in fourth, so it is not going to be easy.

For Madrid, another shot at winning yet another Champions League trophy beckons.

Jurgen Klopp had said Liverpool had a one in a hundred chance of making it through to the last eight and if the odds were stacked against them anyway, they lengthened even more when captain Jordan Henderson fell ill and did not make the journey to Madrid. Stefan Bajcetic was also ruled out with a stress fracture. James Milner and Fabinho, warhorses of many campaigns, started instead.

Liverpool got the first sniff of a chance seven minutes in when Antonio rudiger let a loose pass from dani Carvajal sail over his head in to the path of Mo Salah.

The Egypt forward played in darwin nunez who got his shot on target, but Thibaut Courtois blocked it with his legs and it rebounded to safety.

Madrid looked the better team in the opening 20 minutes and Liverpool were grateful to Alisson for a magnificen­t reaction save that denied Vinicius Jr from point-blank range. diogo Jota should have done better with a volley he mishit but Madrid made clearer chances that were spurned by Benzema. A shot from Camavinga from outside the box beat Alisson but cannoned back off the face of the bar.

When a breakthrou­gh did not come, the home fans grew restless. Liverpool sensed the change in mood and nearly took the lead 12 minutes before half-time.

nunez, who had just directed a free header straight at Courtois, cut in from the left and curled a shot towards the far corner. It was arrowing inside the post until the Belgium goalkeeper got down quickly to his left and tipped the ball around the upright.

Madrid should have put the tie out of reach seven minutes in to the second half when Benzema played Federico Valverde in behind the Liverpool defence but he could only prod his shot tamely at Alisson. He did better midway through the half when he rose to meet a cross from Modric but his header just cleared the crossbar.

Madrid began to turn on the style as safety got closer. Vinicius was superb again on the left and 20 minutes from the end, he drilled a pass in to Benzema on the edge of the box. The ball came at him at pace and in a tight area but Benzema controlled it flawlessly and fizzed a shot just too high.

Liverpool spent as much time trying to stop Madrid’s advantage increasing as they did trying to reduce it. Carlo Ancelotti’s team were just too good, too clever, too dangerous, to give Liverpool anything more than the briefest glimpse of a comeback. Benzema’s

goal, after a pass from Vinicius, merely l confirmed fi dth the inevitable. i itbl liverpool went out of the competitio­n without drawing blood.

little did those liverpool supporters enjoying the afternoon sun in the Plaza Mayor know it but, sadly, sitting a few hundred yards from the statue of San Judas tadeo was the closest they got to a miracle all day.

 ?? ?? Red faces all round: Jurgen Klopp can’t hide his despair while it was another off night for Mo Salah (left) and Darwin Nunez (right)
Red faces all round: Jurgen Klopp can’t hide his despair while it was another off night for Mo Salah (left) and Darwin Nunez (right)
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 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Final blow: Allison is stranded as Benzema scores
GETTY IMAGES Final blow: Allison is stranded as Benzema scores
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 ?? EPA ?? Getting to grips: Salah helps Vinicius up as Klopp’s side are undone by Real again
EPA Getting to grips: Salah helps Vinicius up as Klopp’s side are undone by Real again
 ?? AP ?? Real rival: AlexanderA­rnold’s crash into Vinicius
AP Real rival: AlexanderA­rnold’s crash into Vinicius
 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Simple pleasures: Benzema’s tap-in seals victory
GETTY IMAGES Simple pleasures: Benzema’s tap-in seals victory

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