Vinicius Junior - welcome to the world-class club! Winners & losers as Real Madrid run riot to leave Liverpool on the cusp of Champions League elimination

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Vinicius Junior Real Madrid 2022-23
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Los Blancos came from 2-0 down to hand out a 5-2 thrashing to the Reds, with their Brazilian forward leading from the front once more

Vinicius Junior delivered a performance for the ages as Real Madrid swatted Liverpool aside in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie. The winger scored twice to claw Madrid back from an early deficit, and ran riot as his side opened up a convincing lead, eventually starring in a resounding 5-2 win at Anfield.

Liverpool broke the deadlock early, with Darwin Nunez meeting Mohamed Salah's cross with a delightful flick at the near post. Salah then made it two within 15 minutes, finishing into an open net after a Thibaut Courtois blunder.

Vinicius, though, responded shortly after, curling a ball past a helpless Alisson to pull Madrid within one with less than a quarter of the game played. He then struck again 15 minutes later, deflecting Alisson's loose pass into an empty net to cap off a breathless first half.

He was involved again following the break, drawing a lazy foul from a clumsy Joe Gomez, with the free-kick leading to Eder Militao heading Madrid into the lead.

Madrid stayed ahead, adding two goals more before the 65th minute, with Karim Benzema getting in on the action to cap off a famous victory.

It was the return of the fabled Madrid magic in the Champions League, with the European Cup holders showing exactly why they cannot be written off in their favourite competition.

Liverpool now need to win by three at Santiago Bernabeu. If Vini is on it, that seems very unlikely.

GOAL breaks down the winners & losers from a memorable night on Merseyside...

  1. WINNER: Vinicius Junior
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    WINNER: Vinicius Junior

    He just loves playing against Liverpool, doesn't he?

    After bagging a brace on Tuesday, Vinicius has now scored five goals in his last four outings against the Reds - and is now the youngest player to score twice at Anfield in Europe since Johan Cruyff in 1966.

    The first was classic Vini, with the winger cutting inside onto his right foot and whipping a shot into the far corner. His second, though, was less conventional, as Alisson cannoned a poor pass off Vini's foot and watched as the ball sailed over his head into an empty net.

    But it wasn't just the goals that meant Vinicius stood out. The 22-year-old tormented Liverpool, a blur of cuts and tricks throughout. He could've ended the first half with an assist to go with his goals, too, after finding Rodrygo with a cut back, but Andy Robertson's last-ditch tackle kept the scores level.

    Vinicius was even better in the second half, drawing the foul that led to Madrid's third goal, before assisting Benzema for the fifth. By the end, he was simply toying with Liverpool's backline, running at an exhausted Trent Alexander-Arnold as the home side crumbled.

  2. LOSER: Joe Gomez
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    LOSER: Joe Gomez

    At what point do you start to feel sorry for a player?

    Gomez, for lack of a better term, had a proper stinker at Anfield. The centre-back was pulled apart by the Benzema-Vinicius combo, and made a series of errors that contributed to Madrid's goals.

    It was his loose back-pass that led to Alisson's poor clearance for the second goal; he gave away a silly foul from which Madrid scored their third; and he was positionally lost for the fourth before deflecting Benzema's shot past Alisson.

    Gomez was not the only Liverpool player to have a poor defensive evening, but he was at fault for a number of Madrid's big moments.

    In the end, he was substituted after 73 minutes. At that point, it was an act of mercy.

  3. WINNER: Karim Benzema

    WINNER: Karim Benzema

    Benzema hadn't scored in the Champions League this season before Tuesday. Consider that drought over!

    The legendary striker bagged two in the second half, putting the game beyond Liverpool with Madrid's fourth and fifth goals.

    His second was particularly magnificent, as the France striker cut inside two defenders, rounded Alisson and placed the ball into the top corner to put the tie out of Liverpool's reach.

    Everything about Benzema's showing at Anfield was entirely effortless. He spent long periods not touching the ball, and would occasionally drop into the midfield for a quick pass or brief flick. And then, at the right time, he exploded. It's the sort of Champions League showing we've all become so used to over the last 18 months from the Ballon d'Or winner.

    Benzema isn't 'back' - he just never really left.

  4. LOSER: Goalkeepers
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    LOSER: Goalkeepers

    Thibaut Courtois and Alisson are widely considered two of the best goalkeepers in the world. Neither of them looked like it here.

    Courtois made the first blunder, handing Salah a goal with a poor touch off his knee.

    Alisson then went one better minutes later, simply passing the ball to Vinicius, who deflected it into an open net.

    Alisson made a couple of good saves shortly after, and Courtois was relatively untroubled for the rest of proceedings. But, as the scoreline suggests, this was hardly a goalkeeping clinic.

  5. WINNER: Madrid's European Magic
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    WINNER: Madrid's European Magic

    Real Madrid went down 2-0 after 15 minutes to a rampant Liverpool side. For most teams, in most seasons, that's a frightening, if not unassailable deficit.

    But this Madrid side doesn't really look at the scoreboard in the Champions League. Instead, they plug away, settle into their wonderful flowing football, and steadily assert their dominance on the game.

    On Tuesday, Carlo Ancelotti's team tore into Liverpool's lead and then put away the game themselves. By the end of it all, they were stroking the ball around Anfield while the Liverpool fans could only watch in silence.

    There was, inevitably, a bit of luck involved. Benzema got a kind deflection for his first goal, while Vinicius took advantage of an Alisson mistake for his second. But those moments of fortune were earned over the 90 minutes.

    Madrid's European magic is showing no sign of waning.

  6. LOSER: 'The Anfield Factor'
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    LOSER: 'The Anfield Factor'

    That was certainly a famous European night at Anfield - just not the type we've become accustomed to over the years!

    Liverpool's stadium has long been associated with epic European evenings, full of famous goals and rousing comebacks. But on Tuesday night, Liverpool weren't the ones putting on a masterclass.

    The fabled Anfield energy was there for the first 25 minutes, but steadily faded as Madrid took control. This is not necessarily the fault of the Liverpool fans - they were still singing as Liverpool fell behind early in the second half - but Madrid showed no fear in an arena that used to frighten visiting teams.

    It was a performance that showed that the crowd alone cannot save a team that is so off the pace of its opponent. Prior to Tuesday, Liverpool had never conceded more than three at Anfield in a European game. Madrid swiftly shattered that record.

    Now, Liverpool have to test the mettle of another famous stadium if they are to get anything out of a tie that feels well beyond reach heading to Santiago Bernabeu.