Toni Kroos and Vinicius Jr. were exceptional as Real Madrid ran out 3-1 winners over Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg.
Real Madrid were the better of the two sides in the early exchanges and it came as no surprise that the hosts grabbed the lead midway through the first half. The strike came courtesy a moment of brilliance from both Toni Kroos and Vinicius Jr. as the former lobbed the ball towards the Brazilian, whose exquisite first touch was followed by an equally impressive finish.
Shortly after, Real Madrid were two to the good, with Kroos involved again, as he played another long pass into the final third before Trent Alexander-Arnold’s poor defensive header gifted the ball to Marco Asensio, who did well to beat Alisson Becker for the goal. Liverpool, though, would step up post the interval after getting a kick up the backside in the first half.
The goal was created entirely by Diogo Jota, who drove into the Real Madrid box before setting up Mohamed Salah, who made no mistake in converting from close range. The Reds were in the ascendancy, but Real Madrid would go on to round off the win midway through the second half, as Vinicius Jr. doubled his tally with a first-time shot.
While Liverpool have now grabbed an important away goal, Real Madrid seem to be in the driver’s seat ahead of the second leg at Anfield next week. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over both sets of players following an engrossing contest at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
Thibaut Courtois: 6/10
With Real Madrid firmly in control of the game, for the most part, Courtois barely had anything to do in goal. Could not have done much to deny Mohamed Salah from close range, but did well to keep the defenders honest.
Lucas Vazquez: 8/10
His contract situation might be messy, but Vazquez continues to go from strength to strength on the pitch. Kept Sadio Mane quiet all game long and won 8 duels while pushing Real Madrid forward with purpose. Just a superb asset at Zinedine Zidane’s disposal.
Eder Militao: 8/10
An important game for Militao in the absence of two of Real Madrid’s most important players and the youngster stepped up marvellously. Never really got overpowered bar a moment or two and made 5 clearances in addition to completing 3 interceptions and winning 6 duels. A solid night’s work.
With both Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane unavailable, the onus was on Nacho to be the leader at the back, which is exactly what he was, as he organised the Real Madrid backline superbly to negate the threat posed by the Liverpool attack. Won each of the 4 duels he contested.
Ferland Mendy: 8/10
A solid display that saw him hold the fort superbly at the back and keep a check on Salah for the most part while combining brilliantly with Vinicius Jr. going forward. Bar the moment when Salah did score, he hardly put a foot wrong.
Luka Modric: 8/10
The ageless wonder produced another important performance for Real Madrid, while also grabbing an assist for the second goal scored by Vinicius. Modric combined beautifully with Toni Kroos to ensure Real Madrid were on top of Liverpool in the key moments. Also worked hard off the ball, winning each of the 3 duels he contested. There is no stopping Modric just yet.
A big reason why Real Madrid were so dominant in the first half, Casemiro never let the Liverpool forwards get their way, completing a staggering 8 tackles while winning 11 duels. There were a few sloppy moments on the ball, but defensively, he did not put a foot wrong, really.
Toni Kroos created more chances than any other player in the Champions League this evening (4).
Casemiro made more tackles than any other player in the Champions League this evening (8).
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 6, 2021
Toni Kroos: 9/10
Back into the starting lineup, Kroos showcased his abilities perfectly and proved that he makes a world of difference for Real Madrid. Instrumental in wresting control from Liverpool, Kroos played a couple of delightful long passes in the build-up to the first two goals. Played a game-high 4 key passes, completed each of his 9 long balls while retaining an excellent 91 percent passing rate.
Marco Asensio: 8/10
Following on from his superb showing against Eibar this past weekend, Asensio produced another performance to remember, complete with a fine effort for his goal, as he lobbed the ball over Alisson after receiving it from Kroos via Trent Alexander-Arnold before tapping into the net. Has now scored in each of his last four outings.
Karim Benzema: 7/10
He might not have been able to test Alisson in the Liverpool goal due to some fine defending by Ozan Kabak, but Benzema still carried a lot of threat with his movement, which brought Asensio and Vinicius into the game. Was to be seen all over the pitch and played a couple of key passes as well.
Vinicius Jr.: 9/10
The player who made all the difference for Real Madrid, Vinicius produced two delectable finishes to give Real Madrid a sizable lead in the tie. The first touch ahead of his opening goal was simply outstanding as well and he got the better of Alexander-Arnold whenever he drove at the Liverpool defence. A career-defining performance, perhaps.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 6, 2021
Federico Valverde: 7/10
On for Asensio, Valverde helped in seeing the game out without much of a fuss, with the Uruguayan international running his socks off while winning each of the 4 duels he contested. A bit wasteful in possession, but did the job defensively.
Rodrygo Goes: N/A
A late introduction, Rodrygo did not play enough to warrant a rating.
Alisson Becker: 5/10
A game of hits and misses for Alisson, who did make a couple of fine saves but was also beaten easily for the first two Real Madrid goals. Should have done better to deny Vinicius his brace, though.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 4/10
After a wonderful display against Arsenal that offered hope of a turnaround, Alexander-Arnold was back to being underwhelming, especially defensively, as he gifted Real Madrid the second goal in a way before Asensio scored. Always under the cosh against Vinicius, who had the measure of the English international. Not the kind of performance that was needed to impress Gareth Southgate.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s game by numbers vs. Real Madrid:
77% pass accuracy
25% total duels won
23 x possession lost
3 fouls committed
1 error leading to goal
1 chance created
1 yellow card
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) April 6, 2021
Nathaniel Phillips: 5/10
Phillips has been on a roll since becoming a regular at the heart of the Liverpool defence but against Real Madrid, he was just not good enough. Caught out for the opening goal, the youngster also saw Vinicius score through his legs for Real Madrid’s third and never looked too comfortable.
Ozan Kabak: 6/10
A decent enough display by Kabak despite the poor performances around him. Not directly at fault for any of the goals, Kabak did well to keep a lid on Benzema while also making as many as three blocks. Not supported well enough.
Andrew Robertson: 5/10
The usually reliable Robertson was nowhere near his best, with the Scotsman not even testing the Real Madrid defence with his looping crosses, misplacing each of the ones he attempted. Wasteful with the ball at his feet, he lost possession 20 times while struggling to contain Asensio at times.
Naby Keita: 3/10
A surprise starter ahead of Thiago Alcantara, Keita produced a shocker of a performance that ended with a first-half substitution. Sloppy in possession and poor off the ball before being replaced by Thiago.
The player who has made all the difference since moving back into midfield, Fabinho was overrun in midfield with ease by Real Madrid, with Kroos running the show in front of him. Did complete most of his passes and put in the hard yards, but could not manage to give Liverpool the control.
Georginio Wijnaldum: 5/10
Back into the starting lineup, this was Wijnaldum’s chance to make a difference, but that is exactly what he did not do. The skipper on the night was completely anonymous and failed to be the leader of the pack which was overpowered by Real Madrid.
Mohamed Salah: 6/10
121 – Since Mohamed Salah made his debut for Liverpool, only Cristiano Ronaldo (140), Lionel Messi (156) and Robert Lewandowski (177) have scored more goals than the Egyptian (121) across all competitions within the top five European leagues. Example. pic.twitter.com/kWK5R56RUh
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 6, 2021
One of just two Liverpool players who can hold their heads up high after Tuesday’s match-up, Salah produced a wonderful finish to give the visitors some hope in the second half. The Egyptian winger also played a couple of key passes and was the only Liverpool player who carried some sort of threat.
Diogo Jota: 5/10
Jota was brilliant in the build-up to Salah’s goal and was the driving force in creating that strike, but that was as good as it got for the Portuguese, who just could not manage to impact the proceedings.
Sadio Mane: 4/10
A horrendous performance by Mane, who, even though he completed all but one pass, was the shell of a player he is at his best. Did not muster up a single shot at goal while also playing no key pass.
Thiago Alcantara: 5/10
On for the underwhelming Keita, Thiago was a definitive upgrade over the Guinean midfielder and played a key role in handing Liverpool the control in the early stages of the second half. However, the Spanish international was still well off his best once Real Madrid were back in control.
Roberto Firmino: N/A
On for Kabak, there was barely any time for Firmino to make a difference late on.
Xherdan Shaqiri: N/A
A late introduction, Shaqiri did not have enough time to make an impact.