Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (R) challenges Real Madrid's Spanish defender Nacho Fernandez during the UEFA Champions League first leg quarter-final football match between Real Madrid and Liverpool at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas in the outskirts of Madrid on April 6, 2021. AFP
Egypt's Mohamed Salah was on target but Vinicius Junior scored a goal in each half as Real Madrid defeated Liverpool 3-1 in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday.
Marco Asensio also scored for Madrid, which took full advantage of Liverpool's defensive blunders in the first half to take a commanding lead ahead of the second leg in England.
Salah netted the lone goal for Liverpool early in the second half before Vinicius Junior sealed the victory for the hosts.
The game was a rematch of the 2018 Champions League final won by Madrid, which since then was eliminated in the tournament's round of 16 two years in a row. Liverpool won the title following the loss to Madrid but was also eliminated in the round of 16 last season.
Manchester City defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-1 at home in the other quarterfinal on Tuesday.
Liverpool, which recently endured a run of poor results in the Premier League, looked lost at the start of the match at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium in Madrid, unable to get a shot on goal in the first half.
Vinicius Junior opened the scoring on a breakaway in the 27th after a perfectly timed long pass over the top by Toni Kroos. The Brazilian forward made a nice run between Liverpool defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold and Nathaniel Phillips then chested the ball down before firing a low right-footed shot from inside the area past goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
Another long pass by Kroos _ and a defensive blunder by Liverpool _ led to Asensio's second goal in the 36th. Alexander-Arnold tried to clear the ball from Kroos but headed it across the area directly to Asensio, who flipped the ball over the charging Becker and finished the move on the other side to push it into the open net.
Liverpool complained of a foul by Lucas Vazquez on Sadio Mane just moments before Madrid's second goal.
The English side improved after the break and was able to pull one back early in the second half with Salah finding the net from close range after a shot by Diogo Jota was partially blocked by Luka Modric in the 51st. The goal had to be confirmed by video review because of a possible offside by Salah.
With the goal, Salah became the fifth Liverpool player to score in four consecutive European appearances.
Asensio, who scored in each of Madrid's last four games in all competitions, squandered the chance to increase Madrid's lead on a breakaway in the 64th. But a minute later, Vinicius Junior didn't miss his opportunity after a pass by Modric, finding the net with a shot from near the penalty spot.
Liverpool had kept four consecutive clean sheets away from home going into the game in Madrid. It has not had five in a row in away games this century.
Madrid got the win even though its defensive problems compounded just before the game as Raphael Varane tested positive for the coronavirus. Captain Sergio Ramos had already been ruled out because of an injury.
Coach Zinedine Zidane used reserves Eder Militao and Nacho Fernandez in central defense, and had to move away from a 3-5-2 formation that he had preferred to use in previous games.
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