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UEFA Champions League

Klopp admits Real the better team as Liverpool exit Champions League



Karim Benzema scored for Real, who knocked Liverpool out of the Champions League for the third time in a row. PHOTO: AFP

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has conceded that his team could do nothing more, as Karim Benzema struck for Real Madrid to clinch a 1-0 win on Wednesday and advance to the Champions League quarter-finals 6-2 on aggregate.

After the wild first leg of their last-16 clash at Anfield in February left Real sitting pretty with a three-goal advantage, Klopp said the Reds had only a 1 per cent chance of turning the tie around.

“Being 5-2 down is not a great result if you want to go through. You need to have a special performance and we couldn’t do that tonight,” he said.

“The right team went through, we have to admit that. Knockout stages are like this. It’s not what we wanted but it’s what we got.

“Madrid were in control of the whole game. They were outstanding and that’s why the better team went through to the next round.”


Liverpool have also been eliminated from the League Cup – won by Manchester United – and the FA Cup and are sixth in the Premier League.

“Our job is to squeeze absolutely everything from this season as possible,” Klopp added.

Liverpool stemmed the 5-2 bleeding at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday but never looked like mounting a stirring comeback of the type they managed against Barcelona in 2019, or AC Milan in the 2005 final.

Real have now knocked them out of the Champions League in three consecutive seasons, including beating them in last year’s final.

The 14-time record winners showed the nous to keep the Reds at arm’s length, with defenders Eder Militao and Antonio Rudiger determined to shut out the visitors, along with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.


The Spanish giants could have significantly stretched their lead, save for a series of superb stops by Liverpool stopper Alisson Becker and some unusually profligate finishing.

In the first leg, Real were lethal, with Vinicius Junior and Benzema netting twice each – neither were as decisive.

Yet eventually they combined for the winner after 78 minutes, with Vinicius slipping as he tried to shoot, but hooking the ball into Benzema’s path for a simple tap-in.

Klopp also praised Real’s mentality in big European games.

“They are used to handling it in the best way, and we will have to see if they can do it again this year,” he said.


“Unfortunately we will have to watch these big games from a distance.

“I don’t know who will win it, to be honest. It will be interesting to watch.”

One thing for sure, Real coach Carlo Ancelotti said his players were full of confidence and could go all the way.

They are aiming to win the Champions League for the sixth time in 10 seasons and Ancelotti believes his team’s remarkable run to glory last season has given them a major boost.

Los Blancos pulled off stunning comebacks against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City, before beating Liverpool in the final.


“We have a lot more confidence, because of what happened last year, it gave us a lot of confidence,” he said.

“We also saw that in this tie, against a strong team, we did well in the two games.

“But with confidence alone, we don’t reach the semi-finals. We have to play surprising football… as always, the Champions League is very complicated and we have to compete until the end.”

The Italian hailed the blend of youth and experience in his squad, with veteran midfielders Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, and youngster Eduardo Camavinga, all playing well together against Liverpool.

“The atmosphere is created by the players – the intelligence, humility and patience of the veterans,” said Ancelotti.


“The key is the humility of the veterans, they don’t have egos, and the patience of the youngsters because in front of them are players who have had fantastic careers and still are.

“Modric and Kroos aren’t playing because of the careers they have had, they are playing because they deserve it.”



Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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