Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has shown Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp just how to turn a season around.
A 0-0 draw at Anfield in the quarterfinals on Wednesday protected a 3-1 advantage from the first leg for Madrid. The record 13-time European champions are back in the semifinals — where Chelsea awaits — for the first time since 2018 when Zidane lifted the European Cup for a third consecutive season by beating Klopp’s Liverpool in the final.
“We’re all pulling together,” Zidane said, “and this side always does that and it always wants more.”
The victory in the 2018 final was Zidane’s last game before ending his first stint in charge. He was tempted back in 2019 following disappointing results, but this season looked to be unraveling just a few months ago.
Trailing Atletico Madrid by 10 points in La Liga in January, the defending champions are now just a single point behind and the double is on.
“We have to be really happy with what we’re doing at the moment,” Zidane said. “It’s been a complicated season.”
For Liverpool, it’s turning into a miserable season — which is now sure to end without a trophy.
It’s quite a comedown for Klopp’s side, which won the Champions League in 2019 — after losing the 2018 final to Madrid — and ended a 30-year English championship drought by winning the Premier League by an 18-point margin in 2020.
Now Liverpool is struggling to even make the Champions League places, sitting three points outside the top four with seven games to go.
Liverpool created chance after chance but Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane could find no way past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and a makeshift defense that stifled a front three that has endured a season of frustration.
“We knew we had the first leg advantage, but we played to win,” Madrid midfielder Casemiro said. “They played with a lot of intensity, they’ve got a great team and coach, bit we worked hard. We didn’t rest on our laurels, and that’s ultimately what decided it.”
A scene of many memorable European comebacks, Anfield lacked the fans who have so often inspired Liverpool in similar situations.
“You can’t not take the chances we had tonight,” said Liverpool midfielder James Milner, who had an early shot pushed over by Courtois. “We had more than enough chances to do what we needed to and we didn’t take them.”
The only way Liverpool supporters could make their presence felt was outside the stadium with a red haze of flares greeting the teams before the game — and one of the Madrid buses being hit by an object that smashed a window.
“We condemn unequivocally the actions that led to Real Madrid’s team bus being damaged during its arrival to Anfield this evening,” Liverpool said in a statement. “It is totally unacceptable and shameful behavior of a few individuals. We sincerely apologize to our visitors for any distress caused.”