Carlo Ancelotti believes the high-press system favoured by Liverpool worked in Real Madrid’s favour as the holders sealed a safe passage through to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Karim Benzema scored the only goal of Wednesday’s last-16 second leg to complete a 6-2 aggregate win for Madrid, who have eliminated Liverpool from the competition for three seasons running, which includes last season’s final.
The damage was ultimately done in the reverse fixture at Anfield three weeks ago when Madrid scored five goals in the space of 46 minutes to recover from two goals down and take control of the tie.
Liverpool had a number of chances at Santiago Bernabeu, but Madrid also tested Alisson five times before Benzema tapped in to inflict a joint-heaviest defeat on the Reds in a two-legged European tie.
Toni Kroos and Luka Modric helped control play for the hosts, and Ancelotti puts that down to Liverpool’s playing style, which has brought plenty of success and trophies to Anfield in recent years but has not been as efficient this season.
“Pressing up high for them has cost them because Modric and Kroos manage very well in these types of matches,” Ancelotti told Movistar+.
“They are not afraid and are able to get the ball out from the back. It has cost [Liverpool] in this sense.”
Madrid are through to the quarter-finals for a 19th time in the Champions League era – once more than LaLiga rivals Barcelona, and behind only Bundesliga heavyweights Bayern Munich (21 times).
Ancelotti decided against making any substitutions until after Benzema’s 78th-minute breakthrough, despite having a trip to Barca on Sunday, with the Italian explaining he was wary of Liverpool finding a route back into the tie.
“The team was fine. There’s no need to change for the sake of changing,” he said. “I wanted to keep the substitutions to stop the game if we had problems at the end.
“I liked the team. On a psychological level, in a game like this when you have a three-goal lead, you can lower your level… but we didn’t lower it today.”
Madrid had a late penalty appeal rejected following a VAR review in added time after a goal-bound shot hit Kostas Tsimikas on the arm, but Ancelotti had no complaints over the decision.
Asked about his conversation with Klopp at the end of the game, Ancelotti said: “We agreed it wasn’t a handball. We talked about yesterday’s penalty against Leipzig in the [Manchester City] game.
“You have to be careful with decisions like that because it’s not football. I don’t think anyone noticed it was a penalty, not even [Pep] Guardiola.”
Ancelotti will take charge of a Champions League quarter-final for a 13th time, taking him ahead of Manchester United great Alex Ferguson and level with Guardiola (13) for the joint-most of any manager.