Real Madrid rally past Liverpool on Vinicius, Benzema braces

Real Madrid turned on the class in a comprehensive, come-from-behind 5-2 win over Liverpool in their Champions League round-of-16 first leg at Anfield on Tuesday night as both Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema netted a pair of goals.

The rematch of last year's final -- won by Madrid -- was a thriller, with the 14-time champions scoring five unanswered goals after going down 2-0 to put qualification for the quarterfinals on an almost certain track.

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"We dedicate this victory to our honorary club president Amancio Amaro [who died on Tuesday]," Benzema said after the match. "This victory is for him. We showed personality, scored goals. We want this Champions League.

"It was a beautiful game. We didn't start well. After 15 minutes, we saw Real Madrid. Football is difficult always. They started the game better than us, backed by the support of their fans. We knew we had to do more, and we did it until the end."

A riveting first half saw Liverpool jump out to a two-goal lead with a fabulous flicked-on finish from Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah's strike from close range after a laughable blunder by Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois.

The visitors cut into the deficit before the half-hour through Vinicius, who cut to his right in the penalty area and curled a perfect, low shot past Alisson to make it 2-1.

Real Madrid players celebrate after scoring a goal against Liverpool in the Champions League.
Real Madrid players celebrate after scoring a goal against Liverpool in the Champions League.
Getty Images

Another shocking ball from a goalkeeper led to Madrid's second, as Alisson's pass out of the back was mishit and bounced off Vinicius, looped up over the Liverpool keeper and rolled into the net to level the score before the break.

Despite the slow start, early second-half goals from Eder Militao and Benzema staked Madrid to a shocking 4-2 lead before the hour mark, hushing the Anfield crowd and leaving Jurgen Klopp looking perplexed on the sideline.

Benzema netted his second to finish off a sleek counterattack from Madrid, the France forward picking up a pass from Vinicius, sliding to his left past an onrushing Alisson and burying a shot in the upper left corner.

"I've played very little in this Champions League," Benzema said. "I have to help my team with goals and assists. I played a good game. I had a lot of games last season, and I had an injury at the World Cup. It's always difficult to get to your top level, but little by little I'm getting better."

Real Madrid have all but eliminated Liverpool, who conceded five goals in the Champions League for the first time in club history, from the competition ahead of the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 15. 

"Many things can happen in football," Benzema said. "We are on the right path, but we will need another great game in Madrid."