Vinicius Jr starred for Real Madrid in their UEFA Champions League first leg quarterfinal against Liverpool on Tuesday, scoring a brace as the Spanish giants ran away 3-1 winners. The win means Real enter the second leg with a significant advantage over the 2019 champions. Vinicius, whose inconsistent finishing has led to criticism from Real fans, showed glimpses of his true potential on the night. He scored twice either side of a Marcos Asensio goal, pointing to the badge both times in celebration. Indeed, whatever Madrid’s issues may be domestically, there remains a feeling that they can turn it on in Europe.
The two teams had met in the final of the 2018 UEFA Champions League, which Real had also won 3-1. Incidentally, that game is remembered mostly for Real skipper Sergio Ramos injuring Mohamed Salah’s shoulder.
There was, however, to be no revenge found for that game as Liverpool struggled for consistency on the night. The defence has looked shaky all season and things weren’t too different on the night.
Vinicius Jr took advantage of an excellent long ball from Toni Kroos, running between Liverpool defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold and Nathaniel Phillips to slot calmly past Alisson in goal.
It was a similar long ball from Kroos that found Asensio, who made no mistakes with the finish. Real’s 2-0 lead going into the break was well-deserved.
Liverpool showed significant improvement after the break and their persistence was rewarded. Diogo Jota’s shot was blocked by Luka Modric; however, Salah was on hand to convert the rebound.
The game gave Liverpool a glimmer of hope but it was snuffed out by Vinicius, who scored a second in the 65th minute amid more poor defending from the Reds.
🇧🇷 Vinícius Júnior takes the award on the night he claimed his first ever double for Real Madrid in a sensational display 🔝
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) April 6, 2021
After the game, the young Brazilian said that he focused more on working hard on his own game rather than paying heed to any outside criticism.
“People outside of the club criticize me, but I keep working hard. That gives me the strength to arrive at an important moment like this and score the goals that the team needed.”
Real boss Zinedine Zidane was pleased with the way his side played but warned that the tie wasn’t over yet.
“We played a great game, with difficulties at the beginning of the second half. But we played a very good game and I’m proud of everyone. It’s not easy, this is the Champions League. The return leg remains, it won’t be easy.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said after the game that his side were not good enough on the night. “If you want to go to the semifinals, you have to earn the right to do so.
“We didn’t do that tonight, especially in the first half, so the only good thing really that I can say about the game apart from the fact we scored the goal, is that it’s only the first leg.”