Pep Guardiola, Premier League 2018
Pep Guardiola, Premier League 2018 | (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Football | UEFA Champions League 2023 | Round of 16 First Leg | Round-up

By Chris Sampson

  • Liverpool face uphill task after home defeat
  • Away draw for City
Europe – This week’s Champions League games saw a tough night at Anfield for Liverpool, while Manchester City will hope to complete the job in the second leg after an away draw.

Liverpool 2 Real Madrid 5

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A ruthless display from holders Real Madrid left Liverpool facing an uphill struggle if they are to progress to the last eight of the Champions League. Jurgen Klopp’s side, backed by a raucous Anfield crowd, raced into a two goal lead inside 14 minutes. However, Los Blancos, renowned for their ability to get results in this competition kept cool and went on to overwhelm their hosts with Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema both bagging a brace.

Liverpool made the perfect start. Building on two positive results and performances in the league, the Reds began with the type of high tempo football which had become their trademark under Klopp.

Darwin Nunez’s superbly flicked home from Mohamed Salah’s cross after only 4 minutes. And 10 minutes later their pressing paid dividends when Thibaut Courtois was pressured into a poor clearance which allowed Salah to captitalise.

However, there were no signs of panic for Madrid who worked their way back into the game. A superb strike from Vinicius Junior on 21 minutes reduced the deficit. The Brazilian took the opportunity brilliantly. However, Liverpool will feel he was given too much space. Then in the 36th minute Alisson Becker played a clearance straight at Vinicius Junior and the ball rebounded into the net to level the tie.

The evergreen Luka Modric was beginning to control the midfield and Madrid took the lead two minutes after the interval. Modric’s free kick was headed home by Eder Militao. It was a well worked goal, but once again Liverpool will be disappointed with the defending.

Madrid were now in the driving seat with Benzema adding two more goals. The first was deflected in via Joe Gomez and the second was a composed finish after more great work from the 37-year-old Modric.

Liverpool have a history of comebacks in this competition, but it would take something truly spectacular to recover from three goals down and win at the Bernabeu.

RB Leipzig 1 Manchester City 1

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For the second game in succession Manchester City were made to pay for not converting their dominance into a match winning performance. Riyad Mahrez had given Pep Guardiloa’s side a 1-0 lead at the interval but were pegged back through Josko Gvardiol’s second half header. Their previous fixture in the Premier League had seen City take the lead at Nottingham Forest and then, despite being well on top, fail to add a second. This was to prove costly when Forest grabbed a late equaliser.

City were in complete control in a one-sided first half. Leipzig, to their credit, defended well. However. the Bundesliga side were forced very deep, and the Citizens got the breakthrough on 27 minutes. Jack Grealish seized upon an error and fed Ilkay Gundogan. The German midfielder then cleverly played in Mahrez who applied the finish.

But RB Leipzig came out in the second half with more attacking intent, twice coming close to an equaliser. And they were rewarded on 70 minutes when Gvardiol headed home after a short corner.

Janis Blaswich denied Gundogan with a fine save from close range and City had a penalty appeal turned down as they tried to restore their lead. However, Leipzig managed to secure a draw.

This is not a bad result for City, who will be confident of completing the job in the second leg. However, Guardiola will be concerned that, for the second game in succession, a long spell of dominance has failed to ensure victory.

The Champions League round of 16 second leg ties take place over two weeks on March 7 and 8 and March 14 and 15.