Champions League hits and misses: No miracle for Liverpool but Kevin De Bruyne responds to criticism with sparkling performance | Soccer News

No miracle for lackluster Liverpool

Trent Alexander-Arnold slips on Vinicius Junior as Liverpool crash out of Champions League against Real Madrid

Maybe, just maybe, if Darwin Nunez’s first shot since Mohamed Salah’s pass had been a little closer to each corner. There were 83 minutes left to play at that time. Plenty of time for a miracle. But in the end, Jurgen Klopp wasn’t in the mood for ‘if only’s.

“It’s hypothetical,” he said BT Sports down to earth. “We prepared for a special performance, but we couldn’t put it on the pitch tonight. It was obvious that the better team qualified.”

Karim Benzema’s late goal sealed it, but it wasn’t the first time Real Madrid had opened up for Liverpool. In fact, they attempted almost twice as many shots as they did in the game at Anfield, also generating a higher expected goals total.

Real Madrid's Federico Valverde, right, attempts to beat Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson during the Champions League, Round of 16 second leg match between Real Madrid and Liverpool at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Wednesday, March 15, 2023 (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Liverpool had to thank Alisson for a series of fine saves against Real Madrid

Liverpool were indebted to Alisson to keep the scores level ahead of Benzema’s opener, with the Brazilian making a string of fine saves as Carlo Ancelotti’s side once again exposed the defensive vulnerability that has become such a characteristics of their performance.

Of course, the encounter was almost over after their capitulation in the first leg. Liverpool are capable of special things on the European stage, but the loss to Bournemouth undermined any optimism created by the 7-0 win over Manchester United.

There were flickers of promise in the first half, with Courtois forced into action on several occasions, but Liverpool’s lackluster second half, despite having four forwards on the pitch, felt more at home. picture of their performance as a whole.

During this period, while Madrid showed the mix of composure and quality that makes them such a force in this competition, Liverpool faded, collecting just one shot on goal between the interval and the bitter end. All that remains is to fight for the top four.
Nick Wright

Who can stop the holders of Real?

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, right, celebrates with Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior after scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League, round of 16, second leg football match between Real Madrid and Liverpool at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, March 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Karim Benzema celebrates with Vinicius Junior after Real Madrid’s second leg winner against Liverpool

Real Madrid are the team to beat in the Champions League, if it wasn’t already obvious.

The knockout specialists did the job against Liverpool. A 5-2 lead shouldn’t have been cause for concern and Real made sure that wasn’t the case. Holders have the answer to everything.

The visitors attempted to outgun them but fired blanks. Instead, Real could have won by a bigger margin had Karim Benzema brought his shooting boots. He still found the net without them.

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the Champions League, round of 16, second leg soccer match between Real Madrid and Liverpool at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, March 15 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring for Real Madrid in the second leg

Alisson has shown his nightmare at Anfield to be a blow, saving Liverpool time and time again. In the end, the damage had been done in a stunning second half in the first leg.

Who can stop them now? Napoli might ask them different questions if the draw goes down this way, but there’s not much the experienced backbone of Thibaut Courtois, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema haven’t encountered.

Bayern Munich and Man City will also pose tough tests but Real have beaten them before and can do it again. You certainly wouldn’t object.
David Richardson

De Bruyne “keeps it simple” to shine

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne delivered a statement performance for Man City against RB Leipzig

The night belonged to Erling Haaland but Kevin De Bruyne was the co-star.

Pep Guardiola had urged the midfielder to ‘keep it simple’ to regain his form. “When the simple things are done perfectly and you’re at the right time, the actions to create incredible passes that only he – he – can come up with, it will be easier, it will be better,” the City boss said.

But little about his performance seemed straightforward. It was explosive. De Bruyne was everywhere, constantly wandering to win the ball. He charged into midfield, unleashing a thunderbolt that crashed into the crossbar and perfectly for Haaland to head on.

Champions League hits and misses: No miracle for Liverpool but Kevin De Bruyne responds to criticism with sparkling performance | Soccer News

Only the City defenders had more than De Bruyne’s 75 touches. Bernardo Silva was 19 fewer despite playing the same number of minutes. He delivered 14 crosses as Leipzig crumbled under relentless pressure.

“Kevin is a player for the dynamics. If he doesn’t have the dynamics or the movements, he’s not a player who gets the ball in the pockets and can stop,” Guardiola said after the rout. “He’s a guy who outside, inside, attack here, attack there. Make the transitions, press high.

“When that happens, assists are free, goals are free.”

It suited De Bruyne to curl a delightful seventh in the final minute to cap off his performance, just as doubters were circling after starting on the bench for three of City’s last seven Premier League games.

It was De Bruyne “keeping it simple”.
David Richardson

When is the draw?

The quarter-final and semi-final draws will take place at 11am UK time on Friday 17 March in Nyon, Switzerland at UEFA headquarters.

The eight winners of the Round of 16 are involved in an open quarter-final and semi-final draw.

There are no seeds and no protection from the country, so clubs can face opposition from the same country. They can also draw teams that they have already played in the group stage.

A final draw will also take place to determine the “home” team for administrative reasons for the showpiece event in Istanbul, Turkey on June 10.

You can follow the draw with Sky Sports’ live blog, so you can follow everything here.

Sky Sports

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