Despite handing Liverpool its biggest-ever home defeat in Europe with a 5-2 round of 16 first-leg victory at Anfield, Carlo Ancelotti believes Real Madrid are “no way” through to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
The 5-1 European Cup triumph by Ajax in Amsterdam remains Liverpool’s most lopsided defeat in European competition, trailing only Madrid’s victory after falling behind 2-0 inside of 14 minutes.
Following goals from Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah to give Liverpool the early lead, Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema each scored twice, and an Eder Militao header completed the remarkable comeback by the visitors.
Yet, given Liverpool’s history of producing thrilling comebacks in the Champions League (they overcame three-goal deficits to defeat Ancelotti’s AC Milan and Barcelona in 2005 and 2019, respectively), Real coach Ancelotti claimed that this game is still open ahead of the second leg next month.
This is just the beginning of a knockout tie, according to Ancelotti. “While it went our way, we’ll need to prepare ourselves for the second leg’s hardships.
“Obviously we didn’t expect to start like we did but at 2-0 down I thought about the [Manchester] City away leg last year in the hope that we could do the same — but it turned out even better.
“Liverpool is a great team which made us suffer in the first half so I’d say that, unfortunately, this tie isn’t finished. No way.”
Jurgen Klopp, the manager of Liverpool, played down Ancelotti’s concerns about an unexpected result in the second leg by claiming that his team are facing elimination at the Santiago Bernabeu.
“I think Carlo thinks the tie is over and I think it as well in the moment,” Klopp said. “But the closer you get to the game, the bigger our chances become.
“We go there and try to win the game. If that’s possible or not, I don’t know. We will go there and play a football game. It will be a massive challenge. But we have to play in the Premier League first and make sure we learn from this game.”
The comeback by Madrid was sparked by two first-half goals from Vinicius, who took his personal tally against Liverpool to five goals in five games. And Ancelotti said that the Brazil international is now proving his status as a world-class player.
“Vinicius is the most decisive player in the world,” Ancelotti said. “There is no other player like him right now. He doesn’t stop dribbling, shooting. I hope he can maintain this level.
“Winning like this isn’t easy, above all because of how the match began. We never lost confidence and little by little we won control of the ball. We were efficient up front and Vinicius produced an incredible performance.”