28 May 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 1-3 Real Madrid

Previous Match Infographics: Brighton (h), Chelsea (a), Roma (a), Stoke (h), Roma (h), West Brom (a), Bournemouth (h), Manchester City [CL] (a), Everton (a), Manchester City [CL] (h), Crystal Palace (a), Watford (h), United (a), Porto (h), Newcastle (h), West Ham (h), Porto (a), Southampton (a), Tottenham (h), Huddersfield (a), Swansea (a), Manchester City (h), Everton (h), Burnley (a), Leicester (a), Swansea (h), Arsenal (a), Bournemouth (a), West Brom (h), Everton (h), Spartak Moscow (h), Brighton (a), Stoke (a), Chelsea (h), Sevilla (a), Southampton (h), West Ham (a), Maribor (h), Huddersfield (h), Tottenham (a), Maribor (a), United (h), Newcastle (a), Spartak Moscow (a), Leicester (a), Burnley (h), Sevilla (h), Manchester City (a), Arsenal (h), Hoffenheim (h), Crystal Palace (h), Hoffenheim (a), Watford (a)

Match data from WhoScored, except average position from the SofaScore app. 

I mean, we know where this went wrong.

Mo Salah's first real injury of the season came at the worst possible time. I'm still more than willing to blame Sergio Ramos for doing it purposefully.

This was the first time that Liverpool had two Opta-defined errors leading to goals in the same game since 1-4 Tottenham, the only time it's happened this season. It's only the third time it's happened since Klopp became manager. We haven't seen two errors-leading-to-goals from the same Liverpool player in a single game since I started tracking errors back in 2012-13. Both came from the goalkeeper, the worst player to commit a defensive error, the most frequently punished for committing any error.

And Gareth Bale scored the winner, a goal he'll literally never score again in his life, in training or a match, no matter how many times he tries.

Yep, that all sucked.

So let's spend more time talking about the good things. There were actually a few.

The biggest regret is that Liverpool's game plan worked for the first half-hour. Mostly. In all but the always necessary goal at least.

Madrid still had more possession than Liverpool, but this was as close as we got. And Liverpool's possession was by far more threatening, with 56 attacking-third touches to Madrid's 21. Nine Liverpool shots to Madrid's two. And there would have been a couple more if not for Navas twice sweeping well and a punched cross, as well as a last-man tackle from Varane. Real Madrid were all hands-on-deck, increasingly desperate in defense. Six of Liverpool's nine shots during this spell were blocked, two from Casemiro and one each from Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, and Modric. Seven players defending, so only three could attack.

No side had blocked that high a proportion of Liverpool shots this season. Extrapolating 30 minutes into 90 is a fool's errand, but had Liverpool kept that pace, that's 27 shots, more than all but one match this season. Even without that quantity, it'd have been more than likely that Liverpool would have eventually made the breakthrough, probably before Real Madrid. We all know why Liverpool fell off that pace.

Liverpool did get a goal, if only after Read Madrid. Sadio Mané got Liverpool back in the game. He joins both Salah and Firmino with double-digit goals in the Champions League, the first time any side has ever had three players do so in one campaign. It's fitting that the three now share the record for most Liverpool goals in a Champions League campaign. Against Real Madrid, Mané took more shots, attempted and completed more dribbles, and made more successful tackles than any other Liverpool player. He nearly got Liverpool back into the game a second time, hitting the post with his weaker foot from outside the box in the 70th minute, Liverpool's only shot between Mané's goal and injury time.

And while Real Madrid won, did Cristiano Ronaldo play? Three shots, only one threatening, a clear-cut chance which Karius saved excellently – and he should have been called offside before Benzema actually was. One key pass – a 30th minute layoff for Modric's blocked shot, just after Liverpool had substituted Salah. Unsuccessful with all five attempted dribbles. Ronaldo spent the majority of the match against 19-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold and our old favorite scapegoat Dejan Lovren, who both did immaculately against arguably the best player in the world on the biggest stage. That bodes well.

Of course, Real Madrid are more than just Cristiano Ronaldo. And that's the biggest difference between the sides. Despite all the nonsense incurred by and created by Liverpool. Real Madrid have more than enough quality and depth to win when their best player isn't at his best. Liverpool, less so. Especially against opponents of this stature.

It has been an insanely enjoyable season, far more better than worse. And while it was especially wild in the Champions League, we hit the wall at the end. The Champions League final aptly demonstrated just how far Liverpool still have to go. As the Europa League final did two seasons ago.

But for a few moments, it could easily have been different. It could easily have been better. But – as unfair as it still feels – it's probably fitting that it wasn't. This is where Liverpool are at the moment. This is where Liverpool have been for the majority of the season. Quite fun and quite good more often than not, but prone to calamity – both self-inflicted and inflicted by others – with a shallow squad.

Next season's gonna be a different story.


Ryan McKain said...

I had to wait a couple of days before reading your posts. They're always insightful and witty and are my favorite post game reads. So, sadness at the outcome and sadness that I'll have to wait a couple of months before enjoying your humor again. But this was overall a great ride and thanks for doing what you do.

LFCPhila said...

Thank you for an excellent series of posts. I've looked forward to reading them every week.