Defeat for Rodgers mad selection
Karim Benzema scored the only goal of the game, as the superstars of Real Madrid beat an experimental Liverpool side and effectively book their place in the knock out phase.
Brendan Rodgers made seven changes from the team that lost to Newcastle at the weekend. Captain Gerrard found himself on the bench, where he was joined by both Mario Balotelli and Raheem Sterling. This gave the Reds a starting line up that looked to be an admission of defeat to the current holders.
When questioned before the game about his team Rodgers said he would be “surprised if the fans were disappointed” pointing out that it was a “strong team, with nine internationals and two under 21’s”. It is true that after their start to season he really can’t be sure what his best eleven is, but surely even he will agree that this isn’t it.
As expected Madrid started brighter and controlled the game. Liverpool, though, were happy to sit back and let them play, which led to a more patient passing game from the home side with the impressive Luka Modric pulling the strings in midfield.
It wasn’t long before possession became chances, and with only three minutes gone James Rodriguez’s shot saw Simon Mignolet produce the first of many saves, on what would prove to be a busy night.
Ronaldo was lively as always but failed to bring his shooting boots as Mignolet denied him twice early on, as the Belgium international looked like he alone would stop the Spanish side.
He was finally beaten on 26 minutes when a flowing move culminated in Marcelo’s beautiful left wing cross being met by Benzema at the back post. Surely this goal, the striker’s 10th of the season, would open the floodgates.
Ronaldo probably should have scored, but failed to connect with Modric’s chipped through ball and Benzema lifted Varane’s pass just over net. This, combined with Mignolet’s impression of a wall saw Liverpool get through to half time just one goal behind.
The second half started much the same, Ronaldo still unable to beat the ‘keeper, but Rodgers’s men had a little more of the ball and with Adam Lallana’s turn and shot only just wide. Had Rodgers been inspired? Could Liverpool pull of the miracle?
The answer was simple. Despite only a goal lead, Madrid never looked like losing and they really should of had this game won by half time.
Both managers made their changes and the true gulf in class was apparent to all, as Gerrard came on the pitch for Liverpool. So to do did Coutinho and Sterling, but I’m sure Rodgers would love to have been able to bring on the worlds most expensive player, Gareth Bale. The welsh winger returned from injury and looked sharp, hitting the crossbar from yet another cross from Man of the Match Marcelo and testing Mignolet with a free kick late on.
There was to be no fairy tale return for the Welshman, and Kolo Toure’s body would assist his ‘keeper in preventing anymore goals.
One was enough, and in truth, it was always going to be. Liverpool will take heart from a solid defensive performance and that they kept the world’s best player quiet. This will be of little consolation, they lost a game they never looked like winning. Liverpool’s return to Europe’s top table has not been glorious and if they want to stay there, Rodgers has a lot of work to do.