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Henderson rues poor Liverpool defending in Madrid Champions League capitulation

SoccerNews in English Premier League 21 Feb 2023

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Jordan Henderson knows Liverpool were their own worst enemies in a stunning 5-2 Champions League defeat to Real Madrid at Anfield.

The Reds made a dream start to the first leg of the round-of-16 tie on Tuesday, opening up a two-goal lead after only 14 minutes courtesy of a sublime Darwin Nunez flick and a Thibaut Courtois howler that enabled Mohamed Salah to become the club’s record European scorer with 42.

That was as good as it got for Liverpool on Merseyside, as Vinicius Junior pulled one back with a sumptuous finish before Alisson’s terrible attempted pass struck the Brazil winger and looped into the net.

An unmarked Eder Militao capitalised on abysmal Reds defending to head the holders in front early in the second and Karim Benzema’s double put them in complete command.

Madrid beat Liverpool in the final last year and Carlo Ancelotti’s side should seal their place in the last eight in the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 15.

Reds captain Henderson feels the Premier League side only have themselves to blame after they conceded five goals at home for first time in Europe, with Madrid becoming the first team to win by a three-goal margin after being two down in the Champions League.

The midfielder told BT Sport: “It’s Very difficult. For large parts of the first half we performed well and were unlucky to be level at half-time. We made too many mistakes. Real Madrid punished us every time tonight.

“A lot was [due to] their quality. We didn’t help ourselves for sure. We didn’t defend it [Militao’s goal] well enough. The game went away from us at that point.

“The last two games we kept clean sheets. it’s difficult to come here and speak. Yes, they have a lot of quality. When you’re not 100 per cent defending they punish you. We caused ourselves problems at times. It’s a tough one to take in the end.

“We still played a good first half. We were on top and created some good chances. There was a good chance at 2-0, a scuffle on the line. If that goes in it’s a big moment.

“The second goal obviously is a mistake. The third we’ll be disappointed with. That’s when the game went away from us.”

Henderson says Liverpool can ill afford to feel sorry for themselves as they look to climb from eighth in the Premier League and sneak a Champions League spot for next season, with their chances of qualifying as European champions looking so slim.

“It’s [the second leg] still a few weeks away,” he added. “We have to move on quickly. We have Premier League games before then, so we have to concentrate on that, and cross this bridge when we come to it.”

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