Liverpool are out of the Champions League after failing to make their chances count against Real Madrid at Anfield.
Trailing 3-1 from the first leg of the quarter-final in Madrid, the Reds missed several presentable opportunities in the first half as Mohamed Salah fired straight at Thibaut Courtous, James Milner brought a smart stop from the Belgian goalkeeper from distance and Gini Wijnaldum drove over when well-placed.
Roberto Firmino and substitute Diogo Jota also came close in the second half, but a resilient Real defence impressed in front of former Chelsea goalkeeper Courtois as they were kept at bay.
Karim Benzema saw a first half effort deflected against the post for the visitors, but attacking wasn’t often on their agenda as they protected their lead impressively.
Here are the game’s main talking points.
1. Real serve Liverpool a painful reminder of Kiev
In the aftermath of Liverpool’s Champions League final loss to Real Madrid in Kiev in 2018 there might have been plenty of finger pointing and name calling, but inside the club they remained calm.
The defeat has often been referenced by those in the squad as the jumping off point for a more savvy approach both at home and in Europe, with Liverpool growing from their experiences and earning success as a result.
Real weren’t quite as serene here, and they did ride their luck, but there was a calmness to their game as they made the most of their first leg advantage to plod their way through the tie in a fashion that suggested they knew exactly what they were doing.
Liverpool have lost that confidence this season, and they were back to looking the plucky hopefuls at times across this tie as a whole.
2. Fast start, same result
One of the features of Liverpool’s recent poor run at Anfield is that they could have made things a lot easier for themselves from the very start.
In plenty, although not all, of those games there has been a big chance that the Reds have missed in the opening exchanges, a run that even extended into Saturday’s win over Aston Villa when Salah poked wide early on.
It was Salah who was guilty again here too, as the Egyptian could only fire his effort straight at Courtois when found by Sadio Mane in the opening exchanges.
Obviously scoring then would have changed the trajectory of the game, and it set the tone for a frustrating first period in which the Reds wasted several good openings.
It’s been a theme of their disjointed season.
3. Gini Wijnaldum serves Liverpool a timely reminder
Wijnaldum was another who would go on to be guilty of a first half miss, with the Dutchman blazing over when it looked easier to score in the latter stages of the opening period.
That apart though, the midfielder showed just why he belongs in the company of the very best in his position in the game – three of whom were on the opposite team – as his intensity helped drive his side on in the first period.
It seems more than likely that this will be his final Liverpool season, but when it comes to the Dutchman the Reds could well be guilty of forgetting what they already have as they look to the future.
There is much more to his complicated contract negotiations than that of course, but the forthcoming parting of the ways still looks to be regrettable.
4. There’s still more life in James Milner
Effectively preferred to Thiago in midfield, James Milner covered more ground than any other player on the pitch in the first half at 6.85km, as he hared about and did his best to prove Klopp’s call right.
In fact, there has been a compelling case to use Milner – 35, for we have to mention his age – more often from the start of many of Liverpool’s games this season when intensity has been an issue.
Taking the captain’s armband and clearly told to put 90 minutes’ running into an hour, he took the fight to Real and got in the faces of the opposition from the off, while he was another Liverpool player who was unlucky not to score in the first period.
Once again, he didn’t let the Reds down.
5. Nearly the end of the storm
So Liverpool’s mess of a season will not be getting a golden ending as the prospect of a seventh European Cup – one that would have been won in circumstances akin to the Istanbul success in 2005 – fades from view.
After two years that brought Champions League and then the longed-for Premier League success then a downturn was always possible, but the circumstances that have dominated this season have made this one of the more regrettable Liverpool campaigns.
Yet there has to still be a target.
The Reds will have to pick themselves up and try to finish strongly in a top four race that looks like going down to the wire.
They want to be involved in occasions like this next season – albeit slightly louder ones – and the progress the club have made under Klopp on a global scale is very much under threat if they don’t finish strongly.