Real Madrid secured safe passage to the quarter-finals of the Champions League courtesy of Karim Benzema’s goal in a 1-0 win over Liverpool after a 5-2 first leg victory at Anfield.
Benzema made it four consecutive Champions League ties over two legs with three or more goals (three against Paris Saint-Germain, four against Chelsea, three against Manchester City and now three against Liverpool) to become the first player to do so since Cristiano Ronaldo in 2017 and 2018.
These three stats help to tell the story of this comfortable display from Real Madrid.
0.49: Liverpool’s pathetic xG
Look, this is a stat that can be considered in two ways. On the one hand, Liverpool did not look likely to create chances and lost the tactical battle, but on the other, this was down to a superb display by Real Madrid’s defence and midfield.
Liverpool lined up with a very offensive 4-2-4 shape, with Cody Gap and Diogo Jota working through the middle and alternating as deep-lying forwards who could operate almost like number 10 playmakers. However, Eduardo Camavinga commanded that space well and denied them any space in which to operate and create anything through the middle.
Equally, they struggled to create chances for themselves. In the opening stages of the first leg, the Liverpool press unsettled the Real Madrid defence significantly. Here, Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić shrugged it off with ease. They found it easy to play out of the press and start a counter attack quickly.
Liverpool did register nine shots, but failed to register a single big chance and their biggest chance, with only 0.14 xG, fell to Darwin Núñez on the counter in just the seventh minute. From that point on, Real Madrid sat a little deeper and prepared for such breakaways and Liverpool could not find a way through.
8: Duels won as Nacho took on Mohamed Salah
Much of how Liverpool’s attack was shut down was due to the superb job that Nacho did in marking Mohamed Salah. Left-back was the one position where there was some doubt over who would get the starting nod, but it was Nacho and he produced a performance which earned him chants for him to stay and almost certainly warrants a starting role in the Clásico on Sunday.
Liverpool’s tactics failed to provide much of a threat through the middle and so turned to long balls down their right flank to Salah to run onto, but Nacho positioned himself smartly to prevent Salah from running in behind him. When they did come up against one another, Nacho won eight duels, more than any other player on the field, losing only four, while Mohamed Salah won four and lost six.
Salah completed only two of his five dribbles and was dispossessed three times, two of those by Nacho, and he struggled to get into the game. Much of Liverpool’s game plan, and increasingly as they saw that other approaches weren’t proving fruitful, ran through attacking Nacho’s flank and he stood firm throughout.
He also showed his expertise and experience for these kind of battles. Just as the likes of Dani Carvajal are experts in the so-called dark arts to frustrate opponents and see out ties like this one, Nacho was too. No player was fouled more often than Nacho, with three fouls on him, and it frustrated Salah and his team-mates immensely.
300: Champions League matches for Real Madrid
No club has played in more Champions League matches than Real Madrid, with this match being a landmark number 300 for Los Blancos. They do so ahead of any other club in Europe, with Bayern Munich in second on 280, FC Barcelona on 277, Manchester United on 238 and Juventus on 220.
2022/23 is Real Madrid’s 27th involvement in the competition, averaging 11.1 matches per season and never playing less than eight matches in a single season. Not since 2004 has the club failed to reach at least the quarter-final stage, and that is exactly what Real Madrid achieved by beating Liverpool over two legs as they reached number 300.
This love affair began in September 1995, when Real Madrid lost 1-0 to Ajax, and since then they’ve racked up 180 wins and 636 goals, averaging 2.12 goals per game, while they have only failed to score in 39 of the 300 games which they have been involved in. Across all of those stats, no other club can compete.