Tuesday’s round of 16 first legs in the Champions League delivered no shortage of fireworks. In one game, last season’s Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt took on the most in-form team in Europe. In the other, UEFA treated fans to a rematch of last season’s Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Liverpool.
The drama was unmatched. At Anfield, Liverpool jumped out to a two-goal lead inside the first quarter of an hour. However, a miraculously vicious comeback allowed the visitors to return to Spain with an advantage on the aggregate score.
Real Madrid certainly made a habit of that a season ago. It had dramatic comebacks in each of the knockout stages before defeating Liverpool in the Final. This one did not require a 90th minute prayer. Instead, it was level at halftime, and separated by the end of the game.
Real Madrid emerge from a stunned Anfield
For the first 15 minutes, though, it was Liverpool back at its brilliant best. Darwin Núñez scored a stunner with a flick between his legs. Thibaut Courtois did gift the hosts and Mohamed Salah a goal. Real Madrid matched the brilliance and botchery of Liverpool, though. Vinícius Júnior scored a stunner of his own. Then, with 35 minutes played, Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson sent a clearing attempt off of the Brazilian and in. Two freak misplays by either goalie combined with sumptuous goals at either end.
In the second half, it was all Real Madrid. Eder Militao put Los Blancos ahead off a set piece header. Then, Karim Benzema sent a shot off Joe Gomez that sputtered past Alisson. In a flash, it was 4-2, a seemingly insurmountable mountain for the Reds. Karim Benzema added another on the counter attack to make it five.
Jürgen Klopp will have to summit that mountain in another patented Liverpool comeback in a few weeks time.
Napoli continues unbeatable form to match Real Madrid’s display
In the other game, Napoli showed why it is lighting up Serie A and doing the same in the UEFA Champions League. Despite Kvicha Kvaratskhelia missing a penalty in the first half, his forward partner in Victor Osimhen made the difference. The Nigerian striker continued to put the ball in the net with his 10th goal in his last nine games in all competitions.
The second half was not as dominant as Real Madrid’s, but it served its purpose for the Italians. A second goal for some security arrived from Giovanni di Lorenzo. Then, Randal Kolo Muani, one of Eintracht Frankfurt’s top talents up top, picked up a red card. Kolo Muani is Frankfurt’s top scorer on the season, but will miss out on the return leg at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.
That game at Napoli, and the second leg of the Real Madrid-Liverpool tie, are March 15.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Pro Sports Images
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