Rising. He is the most fouled player in the top five European leagues (82). In the Champions League this season he has the most goal attempts (28) and the most shots on goal (15). Vinicius Jr., recognized as the best player of Real Madrid’s fifth successful campaign at the Club World Cup, has 18 goals and nine assists for the club in all competitions in 2022-23 after 22 goals and 20 assists last season. It was thanks to him that Liverpool failed to win their seventh European title last year and Real Madrid won their 14th. And it was his double that knocked Liverpool out of the quarterfinals the previous season.
Vinicius is the most decisive player in world soccer today, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti said at a press conference in Liverpool on Tuesday.
In the 5-2 victory over Liverpool in the first leg of the 1/16 final, Vinicius Jr. was directly or indirectly involved in four Real Madrid goals. He scored two, assisted Karim Benzema in the fifth, and it was for a foul on him that Eder Militao’s free kick with his head that gave Real a 3-2 lead after they were losing 0-2 by the 14th minute. It was the fourth consecutive match in the Champions League in which Real overcame a deficit of at least two goals. They have now beaten Liverpool six times in their last seven matches.
It was a historic win, mainly because if you consider where we were playing and how we started the game… But we didn’t back down, kept our composure, didn’t panic and turned the tide in a very difficult game, Ancelotti said.
Between the third minute, when Eder Militao found Vinicius Jr. on the left, and the sixth, when Rodrigo did it, Liverpool led. Darwin Nunez struck as audaciously as Alessandro del Piero did in the final of this tournament in 1997. Anfield roared. It got even louder when Mo Salah took advantage of Thibaut Courtois’ mistake. After two Premier League wins and two clean sheets, Liverpool seemed to have turned the season around, starting 2023 with two defeats in the league. Vinicius Jr. had other ideas.
However, when he pirouetted past Jordan Henderson, there seemed to be no threat to Alisson’s goal. Four Liverpool players blocked his path, but they all froze in indecision, and that was all Vinicius Jr. needed
Maya Angelou’s And Still I Rise and what Vinicius Jr. faced are over 40 years apart, but even co
monkeying around the terraces like air, Vinicius Jr. hen bananas are thrown at him, even as the chanting of you’re a monkey spreads through the terraces like air, Vinicius Jr. rises.
Before he evened the score – like Salah, Vinicius did not give up and could take advantage of a rare mistake by Alisson – Eduardo Camavinga found him on the break, and the Brazilian hit a shot off the line. With the score at 2-2, Vinicius gave a pass to Rodrigo, but Andy Robertson desperately brushed it away. Another Vinicius shot, similar to the one that brought the first goal, could have given Real the lead in the first half, but Alisson managed to set up his arm.
Throughout the game, Vinicius Jr. was penetrating zones, a dazzling white shirt under a bright white light. Liverpool prepared for his appearance, with Fabinho and Jordan Henderson coming in to help Trent Alexander-Arnold. In the first half, they conducted most of their attacks on the right; Alexander-Arnold, you might say, had a good game. But Vinicius was unable to contain the Reds.
He was on hand to get the ball in motion, which brought Benzema his first goal of the night. As he did moments later, he was on hand if Real’s No. 9 needed an assist. He sprinted inside to create an opportunity for a pass, which Luka Modrić took advantage of by deflecting Stefan Bajcetic’s shot. Vinicius then gave a pass to Benzema, who calmly finished the game. It was the first time Liverpool had conceded five goals at home in a European tournament.
Their breakdown ended, Klopp smiling languidly as Vinicius Jr. and Benzema embraced. The 22-year-old Brazilian has come a long way since the 2020-21 Champions League match against Borussia Mönchengladbach, when Benzema asked his teammates not to pass on Vinicius Jr. as he plays against us.
There is no player with that kind of continuity. He (Vinicius Jr.) doesn’t stop and keeps going forward. I hope he can keep it up, Ancelotti said. The only player younger than Vinicius Jr. who scored a double at Anfield? Johan Cruyff.