Sport

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Real Madrid ease past Liverpool into Champions League quarters

Real Madrid ease past Liverpool into Champions League quarters
Piotr Zielinski of SSC Napoli scores the team's third goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 leg two match between SSC Napoli and Eintracht Frankfurt at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on 15 March 2023 in Naples, Italy. (Photo: Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

Liverpool’s season has been reduced fighting for a top four place in the English Premier League after they were predictably eliminated from the Champions League by Real Madrid.

Real Madrid cruised into the Champions League quarterfinals as Karim Benzema’s second-half goal secured a comfortable 1-0 win over Liverpool in their last-16 second leg that wrapped up a 6-2 aggregate victory on Wednesday 15 March.

Bidding to win back-to-back Champions League titles and a record extending 15th European crown, a disciplined Real seemed content to sit back against a tame Liverpool who carried little threat for most of the game.

Real spurned several opportunities to open the scoring as they looked to exploit Vinicius Jr’s speed on the counterattack but could not break the deadlock until late in the second half.

They sealed victory in the 79th minute when Vinicius flicked a loose ball inside the area to Benzema who tapped it into the empty net.

“There are no easy wins in the Champions League and it was a complicated match, but we showed from the beginning how serious we are in our desire to go far in the competition this season,” Benzema told Movistar Plus.

“Football today is about suffering, it’s part of the sport we play. Everyone wants more. You always have to suffer. The important thing is to win and get through the next round.”

In need of a three-goal win after losing 5-2 at home, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp picked a very attacking team with forwards Mohamed Salah, Cody Gakpo, Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez in the starting line-up.

Eder Militao of Real Madrid competes with Cody Gakpo of Liverpool during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 leg two match between Real Madrid and Liverpool FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on 15 March 2023 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

Nunez almost scored in the sixth minute after Salah stole the ball from Éder Militão and set up the Uruguayan, but his low shot was blocked by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Playing with two disciplined four-man defensive lines and only Vinicius Jr and Benzema up front, Real looked to counterattack using the pace of the Brazilian down the left.

He set up Benzema twice but the French striker wasted both chances.

The inspired Vinicius almost scored in the 14th minute, but his point-blank volley was brilliantly saved by Liverpool goalkeeper Álisson.

Real almost scored when Eduardo Camavinga unleashed a thunderous strike from distance that crashed against the crossbar and Luka Modrić also fired a fierce shot inches over the bar.

Courtois made fine saves to keep out shots by Nunez and Gakpo, but Real Madrid stayed in control and seemed content to slow the pace of the game down to frustrate their opponents.

The hosts were more aggressive in the second half and should have scored through Federico Valverde and Benzema who wasted golden opportunities from close range.

Finally, however, Vinicius took down a loose ball from a mis-hit Benzema shot and found the unmarked Frenchman who settled the tie.


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Klopp urges Liverpool to ‘squeeze everything’ out of season

Liverpool’s hopes of winning silverware were all but snuffed out by their Champions League elimination but Klopp called on his side to “squeeze absolutely everything” from the remainder of the season as they chase a top-four finish.

“If you want to win the competition, you have to be outstanding. We weren’t tonight, so that’s why it’s then fair that we go out,” Klopp told reporters.

Liverpool have been eliminated from the League Cup and FA Cup and are sixth in the Premier League on 42 points after a 1-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Bournemouth on Saturday.

“Our job is to squeeze absolutely everything from this season as possible,” Klopp said.

“It’s a strange one so far, just our recent two games – a sensational performance against Manchester United, a very good football team, and a really bad performance against Bournemouth, again a good football team, but we should not lose this game.

“That put us again under more pressure. Three points, and I think everyone would have really felt it, smelt our breath if you like. There is again distance (to the top four) because other teams won their games.”

Liverpool faces a tough stretch of games coming up when they travel to Manchester City and Chelsea before hosting leaders Arsenal in the span of nine days.

Napoli into quarters for first time

Napoli forward Victor Osimhen struck either side of the break to steer the Italians to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday and into the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time.

Victor Osimhen of SSC Napoli in action with Djibril Sow of Eintracht Frankfurt during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 leg two match between SSC Napoli and Eintracht Frankfurt at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on 15 March 2023 in Naples, Italy. (Photo: Fantasista/Getty Images)

The 24-year-old Nigeria international, who also scored in their 2-0 win over Eintracht in Germany, scored with a header in first-half stoppage time.

Osimhen bagged his 23rd goal in 28 matches in all competitions this season with a tap-in after a quick four-pass Napoli combination in the 53rd minute before Piotr Zieliński converted a penalty to secure a 5-0 aggregate win.

Napoli are the third Italian team to advance to the quarters after Inter and AC Milan.

“It wasn’t easy, but we managed to reach a historical goal for Napoli,” coach Luciano Spalletti said. “I hope we enjoy it now with the whole team and together with the fans.”

“It is important to have the attitude we had tonight. At the beginning we didn’t have much quality, but we did well and didn’t concede.

“Osimhen is a very strong footballer. He is able to cut behind defenders, and now he is also playing more with the team, and we’re happy.” Reuters/DM

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