Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr came of age to score twice as his side punished a sloppy Liverpool to win 3-1 at home in Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg.
The 20-year-old Brazilian fired the 13-times European champions into the lead in the 27th minute at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium after controlling a long diagonal pass from Toni Kroos from his own half which flummoxed the Liverpool defence.
Marco Asensio put the hosts further at ease by scoring in the 35th after a Kroos pass again caused havoc among the visiting backline but Liverpool looked more settled after the interval and a scrappy Mohamed Salah strike pulled them back into contention early in the second half.
But they failed to build on their momentum and Vinicius, who has a reputation for thrilling play but a lack of composure in front of goal, struck again in the 63rd minute, blasting past Liverpool keeper Alisson after clever combination play between Karim Benzema and Luka Modric.
Asensio missed a clear chance to grab Madrid’s fourth goal, while Liverpool threatened late on.
Yet the visitors were unable to find a second away goal to take back with them to Anfield next Wednesday and the game ended with the same scoreline as in the 2018 Champions League final.
Vinicius, who kissed the Real badge after scoring his first goal was pleased to finally deliver on the biggest stage of all and silence the doubters who claimed he lacked the bottle to succeed at Real.
“The people on the outside can keep talking but I kept on working, that gave me the strength to rise to an important occasion and get the goals we needed,” he told reporters.
Liverpool will take solace from the fact they managed to overturn a 3-0 deficit against Barcelona in the semi-finals in 2019 but they will be unable to count on the scorching Anfield atmosphere in the second leg.
“We didn’t let them create anything,” added Vinicius.
“The tie isn’t over, Liverpool still have a great team and will do everything to win over there so we have to go out on to the pitch just as we did tonight.”
Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum criticised his side’s first-half display and lamented that they switched off for the opening two goals.
“Two moments of not concentrating enough and they scored. We weren’t sharp enough,” he said.
“We played our own game (in the second half) and that’s why we scored. Unfortunately they scored and that makes it more difficult. We hoped for a better result.”