Liverpool have been left with a mountainous task to keep their Champions League ambitions alive after they were torn apart by ruthless Real Madrid at Anfield.
Holders Real – who beat Liverpool in last season’s final in Paris – became the first side to score five at Anfield in Europe despite going two goals down early on as Liverpool made a dream start to this last-16 tie.
Darwin Nunez’s brilliant flick put Liverpool ahead after only four minutes before Mohamed Salah cashed in on Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois’ poor clearance to double their advantage 10 minutes later.
Liverpool’s supporters, who had vented their fury at being wrongly blamed for the chaos at last season’s final by holding up a flag emblazoned with “Uefa Liars” and loudly jeering the Champions League anthem, were soon to have their thunderous celebrations silenced in emphatic fashion.
Vinicius Junior’s brilliant 21st-minute strike pulled a goal back before Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson followed Courtois’ lead by hacking a clearance straight at the Brazilian, holding his head in anguish as the ball looped behind him into the net in front of a disbelieving Kop.
It changed the whole emphasis of the contest, Real going ahead two minutes after the break when Eder Militao headed in Luka Modric’s free-kick.
Real then rammed home their superiority as Karim Benzema’s shot deflected in off Joe Gomez, the French striker then coolly adding a fifth after more brilliant work by the ageless Modric.
Liverpool have pulled off spectacular comebacks before, but it would be truly extraordinary if they turned this one around at the Bernabeu.