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Three things we learned from Real Madrid - Liverpool

Real Madrid vLiverpool FC - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: Leg One

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 06: Vinicius Junior of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal with head coach Zinedine Zidane during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final match between Real Madrid and Liverpool FC at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on April 06, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. Sporting stadiums around Spain remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

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Vinicius Junior sandwiched his brace around a Marco Asensio goal as Real Madrid claimed a first-leg advantage over Liverpool in a 3-1 UEFA Champions League quarterfinal win at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.

Liverpool did not attempt a shot in the first half and trailed 2-0 when Mohamed Salah pulled a goal back for the Reds, who instead of finding an equalizer will now hope for another memorable UCL comeback to beat a Spanish foe.

[ MORE: Premier League weekend’s 10 things learned ]

The second leg at Anfield comes April 6 after Liverpool meets Aston Villa this weekend. They’ll need better from Trent Alexander-Arnold, who struggled again after a resurgent weekend.

And if you want to feel extra sad, Liverpool fans, just watch Georginio Wijnaldum en route to Real’s third goal (in defense of “Gini,” he was brilliant in producing most of the build-up to Salah’s goal -- see “Thing No. 2").

Three things we learned from Real Madrid - Liverpool

1. Vinicius delivers on Zidane investment: Toni Kroos has been in these positions before and remains one of the more unheralded living legends in the game, but Vinicius Junior has now been groomed into a player for these occasions and his chest trap of Kroos’ incredible pass left Nathaniel Phillips hopeless to do anything but foul him. The defender opted not to, and Vinicius put his chance behind Alisson for 1-0.

Kroos’ elite class has been apparent for many seasons but Vinicius’ progress at age 20 can be traced directly to the patience and trust of Zinedine Zidane. Even his phenomenal skill set required nurturing and wisdom, and Vinicius was trusted with 116 minutes over two legs versus Ajax as Real exited at the Round of 16 in his first UCL knockout stage. He started and got an assist against Man City in the first leg of last season’s Round of 16 before sitting on the bench six months later in the second leg. He’s been trained for this, and reacted well.

2. Klopp, Liverpool leaning on history for hope: With one away goal and heading back to Liverpool, the Reds need only look to their recent tournaments to plot a way back. After all, if this side could come back from a 3-0 first-leg deficit against a Barcelona team with the best player of all-time, then Real should well and truly feel unsafe at Anfield. They’ll know that Real was close to its best and several of its players... well... not. It’s not dead yet, though you have to say the Virgil van Dijk absence was especially glaring in Madrid.

3. Real plays its best attacking half in ages, then shows defensive acumen: Real Madrid entered the first half without Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, and Dani Carvajal, and promptly took the match into Liverpool’s final third. The Spanish powers out-attempted Liverpool 9-0 in the first half, putting five of those shots on target and building a 2-0 lead. Salah’s goal was a good one and Liverpool edged the shots 7-6 in the second half, but Real on the counterattack was scary. That said, the second goal came from possession and a throw-in to Modric then made its way past a sleeping Georginio Wijnaldum and onto the foot of Vinicius.

Man of the Match: Vinicius Junior

Real’s Ferland Mendy was especially busy at both ends and was a bright light and Kroos was wonderful, but there’s just no question here.

Real Madrid - Liverpool recap

Kroos hit an incredible ball to Vinicius for the opener and Real kept coming, with Ozan Kabak’s perfect tackle on Karim Benzema and block on an ensuing Vinicius chance keeping it 1-0.

The relief didn’t last long, as Marcos Asensio ran onto a searching ball from Vinicius and tricked Alisson with a flick for 2-0 after 36 minutes.

Salah put Liverpool on the board and it withstood VAR review after Diogo Jota slotted the just-onside Egyptian for a shot that only got a piece of Thibaut Courtois on the way home for 2-1.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Real was under pressure but happy to counterattack and Trent Alexander-Arnold made amends for allowing a pair of open crosses by zipping across the field to stymy Asensio’s bid to give Vinicius a second.

He got his brace soon after, slotting Luka Modric’s square ball through the legs of Phillips and off the hand of Alisson for 3-1.

Follow @NicholasMendola