Real Madrid cruised into the Champions League quarter-finals 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.
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 counter-attack 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 is 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 Juergen Klopp picked a very attacking team with forwards Mohamed Salah, Cody Gakpo, Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez in the starting line-up.
Nunez almost scored in the sixth minute after Salah stole the ball from Eder Militao 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 counter-attack 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 Alisson.
Real almost scored when Eduardo Camavinga unleashed a thunderous strike from distance that crashed against the crossbar and Luka Modric 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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