The defending, as comical as usual, simply let the Reds down. This has obviously been a recurring theme now. Maybe you could cut them some slack seeing it was Cristiano Ronaldo with his band of Champions League winners in town. But two of the three goals conceded could have been prevented. Ronaldo’s opener was a thing of football magic, his one-two interplay with James Rodriguez a sight to behold. However, Karim Benzema’s brace were more to do with Liverpool’s shambolic defending during set-pieces. The first of Benzema’s two goals came from a poor effort at clearing a corner, with both Philipp Coutinho and Glen Johnson at fault for not getting to the loose ball quick enough, before Toni Kroos’ pinpoint cross found Benzema’s head, with Johnson caught underneath the ball. Benzene’s second was due to even more comical Liverpool set-piece defending, as Pepe managed to get to the cross quicker and more aggressively than Martin Skrtel, with an onrushing Simon Mignolet doing his defence no favours with an attempt at a ‘feet-first’ block. Rodgers should simply go back to the drawing board, and sort out his side’s defending at set-pieces. Admittedly, the Reds’ offensive set-piece seem to fare no better.
The Reds never looked like getting back into the game. It was quite surprising that Sterling wasn’t taken off after the hour mark after Liverpool could not score an early goal in the second half. Still, some positives could be taken. At least Liverpool were much better after the break, especially after Rodgers took off Mario Balotelli, deploying six midfielders in the process, with Sterling the tip of the sextet. The Reds managed to create some chances in the second period but simply could not seem to find a clear enough opening to score. To be fair, it did look like Real Madrid was dropping off as well, probably preserving their energy for the weekend’s Classico. Even then, they still looked a big threat on the break and Ronaldo could have added to his tally of one. It turned out to be a routine, if unspectacular, victory for the free-scoring holders. The Reds have much to do to qualify from the group, but with Ludogorets Razgrad grabbing a late winner against FC Basel, the Reds still have hope, and will hope to grab an impossible point at the Bernabeu, or keep the likely defeat to as low scoring as possible. It will simply be a three-way fight for second.
Coutinho looks like he has found some of his old form back, picking off from his substitute appearance against QPR last Sunday. Rodgers managed to give his two new signings some game time, and Emre Can did look strong and determined in his appearance. The formation Rodgers used in the second half should be strongly considered as a feasible strategy until Daniel Sturridge returns in November. With the Reds arguably strongest in midfield, trying this striker-less formation that Vincent Del Bosque made famous with Spain might help solve some of their defensive problems. Having so many midfielders could help Rodgers’ side take more control of the midfield and thus giving the opponents less of a chance to penetrate and attack the Reds’ defence straight on. This strategy would help the Reds keep more possession and with ballplayers aplenty like Raheem Sterling, Coutinho and Adam Lallana, these forward-thinking midfielders could fill the void of a striker with their movement and intelligent passing. One for Rodgers to ponder over for Hull City at the weekend.