Benzema gives Real Madrid victory over second-tier Liverpool in UCL
MADRID (AP) — A goal by Karim Benzema gave Real Madrid a 1-0 win against an under-strength Liverpool side in the Champions League on Tuesday as Cristiano Ronaldo was held scoreless for the first time in 13 games.
Madrid piled the pressure on from the start and Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet made an athletic save from James Rodriguez's shot in the fourth minute. But Benzema broke the deadlock when he lunged forward to connect with a precise pass by Marcelo in the 27th minute.
Ronaldo failed to equal Raul Gonzalez's Champions League scoring record of 71 goals as he was denied several times by Mignolet, including on two free kicks.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers made a surprising decision to leave Steven Gerrard, Mario Balotelli and five other usual starters on the bench, apparently prioritizing a weekend Premier League game against Chelsea. Gerrard and Sterling came on as substitutes in the second half but Liverpool never looked likely to equalize as Madrid controlled the game throughout.
Still, it was at least a respectable scoreline against a team that won 3-0 at Anfield last month and won its 12th straight game in all competitions. It had outscored opponents 46-7 in the previous 11 games, with Ronaldo having scored in 12 straight appearances.
Rodgers said he had picked the players he thought would give the team the best chance to get a win, and highlighted the fact they had kept Ronaldo from scoring.
"We deserved a point from the game," Rodgers said. "The changes were to get the team I thought would give us a result."
Mignolet was kept busy and denied Ronaldo for the first time in the sixth minute after defender Martin Skrtel slipped and Benzema sent the ball to the Portugal winger.
The goalkeeper stopped Ronaldo again in the 35th, punching wide a free kick that had slipped through the defensive wall.
Ronaldo missed another chance when he mistimed his run onto a lofted ball, and Mignolet collected the ball easily.
"I don't think he got frustrated (by not scoring)," Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said about Ronaldo. "I used to be frustrated when I didn't score, Ronaldo keeps on scoring and I think he was just happy that we won the match."
Liverpool missed a chance to draw level when its players crowded the area but Fabio Borini hesitated and defender Raphael Varane was able to kick the ball clear.
Skrtel fouled Ronaldo just outside the penalty area in the 48th but Lucas cleared his free kick. Ronaldo had another shot blocked a minute later.
A clumsy challenge by Sergio Ramos on Borini led to a yellow card for the defender, but the free kick went wide in the 61st.
Gareth Bale came on for Rodriguez in the 62nd.
Ronaldo sent an attempt well high in the 68th after trying too hard to prepare his shot and had another free kick cleared by Mignolet in the 72nd. Toni Kroos then missed a shot from a corner.
Bale hit the crossbar with a shot from inside the area and had a free kick saved after being brought down just outside the area in the 85th.