Liverpool bowed out of the 2022/23 Champions League with a whimper after their 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid on Wednesday night.
The Reds were always up against it having gone into the game 5-2 down on aggregate following a capitulation in the first leg which had seen them give up an early two-goal lead. Before the game, Klopp described Liverpool’s chances as not likely but possible, and if any team could comeback from such a deficit it was the Reds.
There was talk of another Istanbul, where Liverpool famously came from 3-0 down at half-time against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final to win a fifth title on penalties. And, of course, who could forget Liverpool’s comeback against Barcelona in 2018/19 when they were 3-0 down after the first leg and won 4-3 on aggregate.
Liverpool started the first half well and had their fair share of chances, with eight shots and four on target, testing Thibaut Courtois on a few occasions. But they were well matched by a Real Madrid side that looked more up for it at times, and could have scored at least two in the first half were it not for Alisson.
The visitors not scoring early was not the end of the world, but they could have done with one before half time to scare Real Madrid and give themselves hope. At half-time the message should have been clear from Klopp, that there was nothing to lose as Liverpool had to throw themselves at the game if they wanted to stay in the Champions League.
But based on what followed, we don’t know what Klopp must have said. Despite needing to score three goals, Liverpool didn’t have their first shot of the second half until the 83rd minute, after Karim Benzema had put Real Madrid 6-2 up on aggregate. But that was a tame effort from outside the box that Courtois caught with ease. It ended up being Liverpool’s only shot of the second half, and their last in the Champions League until at least next season.
Harvey Elliot was the man to take the shot, brought on as part of a double substitution by Klopp in the 57th minute, a decision which had Liverpool fans scratching their heads. Elliot and Roberto Firmino came on for Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez, despite the latter being one of Liverpool’s best outlets in attack on the night.
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For some Liverpool fans, it was just another example of Klopp’s poor decision-making when it comes to making substitutions, which proved extremely costly.
Jurgen Klopp's subs have killed Liverpool tonight.
— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) March 15, 2023
Klopp’s lost it man. Need 3 goals and he takes off his £67m centre forward before minute 60 ?
— Anfield Fix (@AnfieIdFix) March 15, 2023
Klopp wanted us to be believers and not doubters then he lets us have seasons like this and takes off the likes of nunez for slow boring players. What are we believing in here?
— Sean (@SeanDOlfc) March 15, 2023
I will never ever in my whole life understand Klopp subs. It like he says to himself ‘what sub makes absolutely zero sense right now’ then makes it. Haha. #LFC
— Graeme Kelly (@GraemeKelly1) March 15, 2023
Nah Klopp's made so many strange or bad decisions all season. I love him but he's been as below his best as many of the players this season.
— Red (@TaintlessRed) March 15, 2023
There is more than 30 minutes to go, and Klopp decided to sub Elliott for Darwin Nunez pic.twitter.com/9QomeJ51ji
— LiverpoolGoals (@Liverpoolgoals_) March 15, 2023
Klopp’s substitutions have once again killed the game
— MO? (@Darwin__Theory) March 15, 2023
Oxlade on for Milner. Klopp booked. Unrelated
— The Redmen TV (@TheRedmenTV) March 15, 2023
What does that say to Fabio Carvalho when you bring a player who has no future at this football club on ahead of him, then just give him pity seconds at the end.
— Chris Stonadge (@ChrisStonadge) March 15, 2023
Disappointing but obviously tie lost at Anfield. Alisson incredible tonight shame he didn’t get the clean sheet performance merited. Unless he’s injured scratching my head why Klopp took Núñez off. Subs made us worse again removed all threat. But we lacked quality in key moments.
— Neil Docking (@NeilDocking) March 15, 2023
Klopp’s other substitutions saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain come on for James Milner, Kostas Tsimikas replace Andrew Robertson, and Cody Gakpo go off for Fabio Carvalho – though the latter two were late changes to hand out a couple of rests.
“Being 5-2 down is obviously not a great result. If you want to go through, you need need a special performance and we couldn’t put in a special performance on the pitch tonight,” Klopp told BT Sport.
“The right team went through, that’s what we have to admit. Madrid controlled the game, we gave them the opportunity to control it. Knockout stages are like this, there are probably 500,000 different ways to go out and this was ours tonight. It’s not what we wanted but it’s what we got.
“I think in three halves of the two games they were the better team and that’s how you go through to the next round. But to be honest, if we draw at home and play the game we played tonight we probably go out as well, so we can’t come here and hope to get something.”