Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
Vinicius Junior helped Real Madrid earn a 3-1 win over Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal.
The 20-year-old scored two goals Tuesday as the La Liga squad grabbed an early advantage in the two-leg knockout-stage battle. Marco Asensio also scored in an impressive offensive showing for the home team.
Though Mohamed Salah got a key away goal for Liverpool, the English club will have to overcome the two-goal deficit in the second leg.
This rematch of the 2018 UCL final features two clubs that have recently won European titles (Liverpool in 2019, Real Madrid in 2016-18), although both are coming off disappointing round-of-16 exits in 2020. They each appear to be legitimate contenders to win it all again in 2021, but they will have to get past each other after a tough draw.
The tie will conclude on April 14 at Anfield, with the aggregate winner advancing to the semifinals for a matchup against the winner of Chelsea and Porto.
Real Madrid took control early in Tuesday’s match, getting the majority of chances while putting a lot of pressure on Alisson in goal.
Vinicius Junior helped his team break through in the 27th minute before adding to the lead in the second half.
A veteran midfielder earned an assist in both cases as Toni Kroos and Luka Modric provided excellent balls for the young forward.
Kroos was especially impressive in the match with several great passes:
Real Madrid’s second goal of the match came thanks to a bad mistake from Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold:
Asensio had an excellent finish to beat the keeper, but the opportunity was still a gift from the young fullback.
There were positive moments for Liverpool in the second half as the club gained more possession and earned more chances around the net.
Salah eventually found the back of the net in the 51st minute:
This cut the score down to 2-1 at the time, but Real Madrid was able to get it back and put itself in excellent shape after one leg.
Real Madrid entered the match shorthanded defensively with key defenders Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane both unavailable, per Dermot Corrigan of The Athletic. Liverpool has also been without their first choice center backs in Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip.
It left an open match with each mistake magnified, and the attackers on both sides were able to take advantage.
One club was more prepared than the other, though, and it leaves Real Madrid with a solid chance to earn a spot in the UCL semifinals