With the Reds struggling to contain the German midfielder Toni Kroos, the 2014 World Cup winner delivered a standout performance as he punished Liverpool’s static defence with brilliant balls over the top.
Rice enjoyed his display, tweeting “Watching Toni Kroos is very special” shortly after he’d teed up the first goal of the night for Real’s Vinicius Junior.
Kroos’ display was enjoyed in Spain too, where sports publication AS sang the German’s praises.
“And he did.
“Every time the Germany star pivoted in midfield, every time Liverpool’s central threesome so inexplicably dropped away, his passing lines painted the pitch like a canvas.
“As the long deliveries towards Ferland Mendy and Vinicius down the Madrid left mounted, so did the uncertainty in the Liverpool defence.
“Trent Alexander-Arnold faced runners before him and the ball overhead, and he never seemed quite sure which one to deal with.
“When Kroos was again gifted time to lift his head and curl another pass towards the right-back, panic took over; his attempted header back to Alisson was gratefully pounced on by Marco Asensio (for the second goal).”
Liverpool now face a mountain to climb in the second leg at Anfield if they are to stay alive in this season’s Champions League.
The Reds will be hoping to rely on their famed resilience in Europe, but given their poor recent home form and the lack of an Anfield atmosphere then Real and Kroos will be heavy favourites to progress.
[email protected] (Mark Jones)