Since Carlo Ancelotti arrived, Real Madrid has been living an idyll with the Champions League that seems far to be finished. I am pretty sure that most of you remember what happened the last time Los Blancos visited Anfield Road. In fact, some of the men that played today also took part in that disgraceful night for the madridistas. We could have expected to see some hints of nervousness in them but, instead, they delighted us with a categorical victory that almost secured the first place in the group stage.
Liverpool: Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno; Gerrard, Henderson (Can, 67'), Allen, Coutinho (Markovic, 67'); Sterling, Balotelli (Lallana, 45').
Real Madrid: Casillas; Arbeloa, Pepe, Varane, Marcelo (Nacho, 85'); Kroos (Illarramendi, 82'), Modrić, James, Isco; Ronaldo (Khedira, 75'), Benzema.
The first half
As it was foreseen, Liverpool started the game with a lot of intensity, spurred by the chants from the crowds and Anfield's mysticism. Sterling and Coutinho's dynamism contibuted to create the impression that Real Madrid were suffering in the early minutes, but the truth is that Liverpool were not able to create any clear (or, even, unclear) goal chance because they were facing a wall. With the robust 4-4-2 that he loves for the complicated games, Carlo Ancelotti had instructed their men to be solid as rocks, but I think that not even him had expected to see our midfield wearing the adamantium armor they used today. When artists like James or Isco bite the same way the legendary Gennaro Gattuso would have, nothing can go wrong.
Offensively, however, Real Madrid were not able to dictate the tempo of the game until the twentieth minute, when they could build their first long possession on Liverpool's side of the field. Shortly after, in the 23rd minute, Ronaldo's goal arrived, with a beautiful shot from the top of the box, after a lob by James, that Mignolet could not have been able to block even in his sweetest dream.
The goal seemed to cut down the hopes in Liverpool players and Real Madrid got to build the possession-based game we are used to. Kroos, Modrić and James were equally brilliant, but Isco seemed to be even one step ahead of them, always making the right choice, the best dribble and the finest pass. He has definitely earned the right to be a starter on Saturday against FC Barcelona.
Before the break, two collective actions after corner kicks served Benzema to score twice to close the game. His first goal was a fantastic header after a cross by Toni Kroos, while the second one followed a little mess in Liverpool's box that he made profit of like the great killer he is. Ronaldo could have also scored the fourth goal a couple times, but Johnson and Mignolet were able to deflect his shots. Finally, a few seconds before the referee called for the break, Coutinho hit the post with a long shot that could have changed the fate of the game.
The second half
Possibly scared by Coutinho's shot, and keeping in mind how Liverpool came back at his AC Milan in Istambul a few years ago, Carlo Ancelotti decided to adopt an ever more solid approach in the second half. The two four-men lines in the 4-4-2 were much clearer to see, and much closer to Casillas's goal, while Benzema and Cristiano were released of defensive duties to focus on counterattacking.
Just like in the first half. Liverpool tried to take the initiative in the early minutes, but they were unable to break Real Madrid's defensive system. Once again, los Blancos were the first to hit, with a beautiful collective play by Isco, Benzema and Ronaldo that our Commander missed in front of Mignolet.
By the sixtieth minute, only Sterling seemed to have the energy to conduct some onslaught towards Casillas's goal, although he never succeeded. Carletto subbed Ronaldo, Kroos and Marcelo off to give them some rest before El Clásico, and we got to see that Sami Khedira is fully recovered and won't likely leave Real Madrid in the winter transfer window, since he won't be allowed to play any Champions League game with another team this season.
Next stop, El Clásico!