Ancelotti hails Real Madrid's 'quality and commitment' after emphatic win over Liverpool

Champions League holders ease into quarter-finals after a 6-2 aggregate victory against Premier League side

Karim Benzema scored the only goal of the second leg as Real Madrid eased past Liverpool and into the Champions League quarter-finals. EPA
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Real Madrid manager Carlos Ancelotti praised his team's "quality, experience, energy and commitment" after defeating Liverpool 6-2 on aggregate to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday.

The holders were in pole position to progress to the last eight after the first-leg 5-2 victory at Anfield, and avoided what Ancelotti described as a "banana skin" by winning the return match 1-0 at the Bernabeu in Madrid, Karim Benzema's 78th-minute goal proving the difference on the night.

It was the third consecutive year Real Madrid had ended Liverpool's Champions League hopes.

"We have so much quality, experience, energy and commitment as a group," Ancelotti said. "We're a modern team because we have all of those attributes. [Luka] Modric and [Tooni] Kroos played brilliantly because they brought the ball out from the back so well and really helped us keep the game under control. Modric and Kroos don't play because of the careers they've had, they play because they deserve to."

Real Madrid defeated Liverpool in the Champions League final last season to secure their 14th European Cup and fifth in the past eight years. On that occasion at the Stade de France, the Spanish giants could count themselves somewhat fortuitous to come away with a 1-0 victory as goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois produced a sensational performance.

Fast forward nearly 10 months and there were no doubts about which team was superior, despite Liverpool racing into a 2-0 lead inside 14 minutes of the first leg.

“Last year gave us so much more confidence and you could see that in this tie, across both games against a very strong side," Ancelotti said. "Now we have to play in the quarter-finals and there are surprises in there like the Italian teams, who nobody expected to get this far. The Champions League is very tough and you have to compete and fight to the end."

The Italian manager reserved special praise for two players in particular, describing Brazilian winger Vinicius Junior, whose cut back pass set up Benzema's goal, as "the best in the world", while Spanish defender Nacho "delivered a top class performance. It isn't easy to play against [Mohamed] Salah and he did a brilliant job".

Real Madrid v Liverpool player ratings

Ancelotti also said the key to Real Madrid's success has been the squad's blend of experience and youth, with established stars such as Benzema, Modric, and Kroos playing alongside exciting young talents like Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde, and Vinicius.

"The players create the atmosphere thanks to their intelligence and humility," he said. "The veterans' humility is so important because they don't have egos. Then it's also important that the young players are patient because they know they have guys who have had fantastic careers ahead of them."

One minor concern from the victory was Benzema appearing to pick up an injury while scoring but Ancelotti insisted it was nothing serious.

"It's a knock," he said. "He was feeling a bit sore and it hurts a little, but I think he'll recover without any problems for Sunday."

Updated: March 16, 2023, 6:33 AM