Real Madrid beat Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, and you get the feeling that the Spanish giants could have added to their tally in the second half if they'd really wanted to. However, with Basel losing to Ludogorets, Liverpool are still in line to advance past the group stage so while this was a humbling experience, it wasn't a lethal one.
Liverpool came out of the gates swinging, and like an experienced fighter Madrid waited for them to tire before responding with a series of knockout blows. In the opening minutes the Reds, buoyed by a roaring crowd, resembled the confident outfit that scored goals for fun last season. They appeared fearless and full of swagger, and took the game to Madrid with adventurous passing and fluent play on the counter attack. Philippe Countinho and Raheem Sterling were outstanding, and their moves shined even in contrast to Madrid's best.
But the initial Liverpool drive did not translate into an early lead, and after they failed to score in the opening stretch it was clear that they were in trouble. Madrid eased further forward as Liverpool struggled to maintain the maniacal energy levels that they possessed at kickoff, and it wasn't long before Liverpool's much maligned defense broke under the pressure.
Cristiano Ronaldo's opening goal was special, and in fairness there's little Liverpool could have done to prevent it. James Rodriguez lifted a delicate chipped pass over Dejan Lovren's head and Ronaldo took his shot without breaking stride, placing it deftly in the left corner of the goal.
Liverpool gifted the next two goals to Madrid. Glen Johnson inexplicably allowed Kareem Benzema a free header at the back post that the French striker looped past Simon Mignolet, and then the team suffered another mental breakdown on a set piece as the ball bounced through traffic to Benzema who doubled his score count to put the game away.
Brendan Rodgers took off an ineffective Mario Balotelli at half time in an attempt to spark his side, but while Liverpool looked better in the second half, they never really threatened Madrid. As the Reds poured forward looking to recreate Istambul, the visitors found acres of space on the counter attack and should have added a couple more goals to an already impressive scoreline.
There were bright spots for Liverpool -- Coutinho, Sterling, and Lallana all played at peak level -- but the team's extended periods of good play were drowned out by brief moments of self-destruction. In a match of complimentary pieces against bona-fide superstars, Liverpool needed near perfection to get a result. They were far from it today.