Matchday 4 of the UEFA Champions League didn’t flood with goals as the night before but there was still enough drama, action and just about enough goals to quench the thirst for some.
Europe hosted 8 games in 8 different cities but it was in Northwest England that arguably the lion share of attention was as five-time winners Liverpool entertained record winners and defending champions Real Madrid in a European heavyweights clash. The odds were rightly stacked against Liverpool getting a result against Madrid who won last season’s title and have made it to at least the semis for the past four years, a stark contrast to Brendan Rodgers’ side who are making their return to the elite competition after a 5-year absence. Gulf in class.
Much had been said of the atmosphere in a European night at Anfield and the Koop were in full voice bellowing one song after another before raising the decibels to deafening levels when the ‘You Will Never Walk Alone’ rendition rented the air before kickoff. Emotions ran high as the home fans sang along to one of the world of football’s most famous anthems. Not even the likes of Steven Gerrard who was born and grew up with the song nor first time visitors like the would-be tormentor of Liverpool’s midfield, Isco, could have understated the chilling effect, the hair-raising feeling of the musical carousel.
With the stage set for a giant clash, the hosts started with a spring in their step, circulating the ball around with ease, putting Carlo Ancelloti’s side under relentless pressure. After all, the last time Real made the trip to Anfield, they were made to look like they had just emerged from an inferior universe with Steven Gerrard scoring twice in a 4-0 demolition job, damn, even Andrea Dossena scored on that night! There was a bit of gulf in class in favor of Liverpool then.
But that was five years ago, and so much has happened besides the passage of time. So it wasn’t a surprise when the Reds were given a timely reminder of how far they half fallen behind the La Decima champions when James Rodriguez’s perfectly weighted lob behind the Liverpool backline found Cristiano Ronaldo who slotted home with Dejan Lovren attempting in failure to clear the danger. A classy goal created by a World Cup Golden Boot winner and scored by a Ballon d’Or winner. Gulf in class.
Karim Benzema showed the hosts why a player of his quality shouldn’t be left unaccompanied at the back post after he looped a header past Mignolet to double Madrid’s lead. A better positioning, a little instinct not to give Madrid too much time on the ball outside the box and that goal could have been avoided. And who assisted Benzema’s goal? Toni Kroos, a World Cup winner who was also named in the All-Star team of the tournament. Gulf in class.
Benzema was at it again just four minutes before the breather, and boy didn’t Liverpool desperately need a break given the proceedings. With the game 3-0 in favour of the visitors at half time, Liverpool fans would have wished for yet another Istanbul miracle. They must have recalled that night in Tureky when the Reds came from three goals down at half time to force a 3-3 draw and edge out AC Milan on post-match penalties and lift what was their 5th European crown. Problem was, Carlo Ancelloti was the manager of Milan then and for sure he wouldn’t let such a catastrophe hit him for the second time. And secondly, there simply wasn’t motivation enough; there wasn’t a title to compete for.
For the second half, Brendan Rodgers tinkered with the team a bit, hauling off the ineffectual half-time-shirt-swapping Mario Balotelli for Adam Lallana and putting Raheem Sterling as the point man. Whether it worked or not is open to debate but the Merseysiders at least ensured there wasn’t more goals in the second half.
Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu will be stage for a rematch in less than a fortnight and such is the importance of that match as they will secure qualification to the next stage with a draw or a win against the Reds. Will Liverpool prove to be a much tougher opposition or will the gulf in class see the hosts prevail?
And That's thesteifmastertake!!