Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema scored twice as Real Madrid produced another stunning Champions League fightback from 2-0 down to thrash Liverpool 5-2 in the first leg of their last 16 tie at Anfield on Tuesday.
Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah had given the hosts a perfect start in a repeat of last season’s Champions League final.
But Vinicius struck twice to level by half-time and, after Eder Militao had given Carlo Ancelotti’s men the lead, Benzema’s double put the holders well on the way to the quarter-finals.
“We suffered a lot early on, you can’t start games like that, but fortunately the team had a cool head,” said Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti.
“Up front today we were very efficient. Every time we broke the press of Liverpool we were able to create chances.”
Defeat compounds a disastrous season for Liverpool after coming so close to an unprecedented quadruple of trophies last year.
Jurgen Klopp’s men are languishing in eighth in the Premier League and now appear to have no realistic chance of silverware this season.
“I think Carlo thinks the tie is over and I think it is too in the moment,” said Klopp. “In three weeks we will get to the game and take our chances.
“We go there and try to win the game. Whether it is possible, I don’t know, but we will try.”
Madrid’s 1-0 victory when the sides met in Paris last May was overshadowed by chaotic scenes outside the Stade de France that put the lives of fans at risk.
The Liverpool support responded by drowning out the Champions League anthem with a chorus of boos, while a series of banners in the Kop stand took aim at UEFA and the French authorities.
Once the action got underway, the players produced the spectacle expected of a clash between two clubs with a combined 20 European Cups.
Liverpool briefly turned back the clock to some of their best nights under Klopp to explode out of the blocks.
Nunez produced a magical finish to flick home Salah’s pass inside four minutes.
Madrid overcame two-goal deficits to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City on their road to a 14th European Cup last season and were forced to do so again by their normally solid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
A loose touch from the Belgian handed Salah Liverpool’s second on a plate as the Egyptian became the Reds’ all-time top goalscorer in European competition with 42.
But the defending champions again showed remarkable powers of recovery to turn the tie around in little over 30 minutes of play.
“Obviously we didn’t expect to start like we did but at 2-0 down I thought about the City game in last year’s semi-final in the hope that we could do the same,” added Ancelotti.
“It turned out even better.”
Vinicius was the match-winner in last season’s final and now has five goals in four appearances against Liverpool.
The Brazilian flashed a shot into the far corner to get the comeback started on 21 minutes.
Another calamitous error from one of the world’s leading goalkeepers gifted Madrid an equaliser when Alisson Becker’s attempted clearance bounced off Vinicius and into an unguarded net.
Liverpool’s leaky defence was breached again at the start of the second period as Militao was afforded a free header to turn in Luka Modric’s free-kick.
Fortune was also on the side of the Spanish giants for the fourth goal as Benzema’s shot deflected off Joe Gomez to leave Alisson stranded.
There was nothing lucky about the visitors’ fifth as a clinical team move cut Liverpool to pieces.
Modric burst through midfield and fed Vinicius, who teed up Benzema to coolly round Alisson and slot into the top corner.
The sides meet again on March 15, but the second leg now appears little more than a formality on a night Madrid showed why they remain the kings of Europe.
Osimhen sends Napoli to victory in Champions League last 16
Napoli’s Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen got on the scoresheet again as the Serie A leaders beat Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 in their Champions League last 16, first leg on Tuesday.
Osimhen scored before the break as Giovanni Di Lorenzo doubled their lead after the interval before the second leg in southern Italy on March 15.
Frankfurt were reduced to ten men early in the second half after a nasty challenge from striker Randal Kolo Muani found the shin of Napoli’s Frank Anguissa.
The visitors doubled their lead soon afterwards when Khvicha Kvaratskhelia set up Giovanni Di Lorenzo with a superb back heel, putting Napoli on course for what would be their first ever Champions League quarter final appearance.
Lozano told Sky Sport after the game that Napoli “did well against a strong side. It was tough at first, but we had a great game.”
Napoli manager Luciano Spalletti told Sky “we did well from the start, especially against a team that tactically know what to do.
“It was an end-to-end game, which we want and thrive in... There’s still the second leg - our biggest enemy is to think it’s done.”
Buoyed on by a home crowd celebrating the club’s first venture into the Champions League knockout rounds, Frankfurt started stronger, with in-form striker Randal Kolo Muani creating a goal chance out of nothing after four minutes.
With his back to goal inside the Napoli penalty area, the France forward chipped the ball over his head, turning to fire just wide of the right upright.
As the opening half wore on the visitors’ quality began to show, with the runaway Serie A leaders dominating possession and field position.
Mexico winger Lozano unleashed a rocket which hit the post after 34 minutes, but Frankfurt defender Aurelio Buta swept Osimhen’s legs out from under him while trying to clear the ball inside the box.
Kvaratskhelia stepped up to take the penalty but despite hitting the shot well, Frankfurt keeper Kevin Trapp leapt to his left to deflect the ball out for a corner.
Frankfurt’s relief was short lived however, with Napoli scoring the opener just three minutes later through Osimhen.
The move started deep inside Napoli’s own territory, when Stanislav Lobotka intercepted a tame pass from Mario Goetze and sent the ball vertically up the right flank to a sprinting Lozano.
Lozano, back in the starting XI after being rested in Serie A on the weekend, pummelled a low cross goalwards, perfectly cutting a line between Trapp and the Frankfurt defence into the feet for Osimhen to score.
The Nigerian striker looked to have another just a minute later when he converted another superb Lozano pass, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
After the game, Frankfurt manager Oliver Glasner lamented the “little mistakes we made that Napoli used” to take a lead into the second leg.
“We made a mistake on the halfway line and Napoli had the speed and the quality to use it,” Glasner said.
“Then we showed our inexperience and our nervousness – and after the red card, the 2-0 result is to be expected.
“If you’ve only lost two games in the past eight months, you get a lot of self confidence and you know what you’re doing.”
Frankfurt’s Mario Goetze said he still believed his side could pull off a remarkable comeback.
“They scored two goals here at our home, why can’t we do that there? Everything is possible away from home and we’ll do everything so that we can make it.”