Real, by contrast, had the fading forces of Fabio Cannavaro, Gabriel Heinze and the great Raul under the short-term stewardship of Juande Ramos. Not on this night when Real Madrid reigned supreme and left Liverpool fighting for their survival in the Champions League. A brilliant header with a prodigious leap, sensational on the floor and a glorious goalscorer. How Liverpool solve the problem of Mario will be one of their biggest conundrums. Liverpool have two survivors from the side which beat Real five years ago, Martin Skrtel and Steven Gerrard. The subsequent praise of his replacement Adam Lallana sounded like a jab in Balotelli's direction. It takes something special for a player so closely associated with the old enemy Manchester United to be applauded off at Anfield - but large sections of Liverpool's support rose to Cristiano Ronaldo when he was substituted after 75 minutes. It can, though, be filed under the least of Rodgers' worries after Real almost did their opponents a kindness by easing up and looking towards this weekend's 'El Clasico' with Barcelona.
Liverpool have two survivors from the side which beat Real five years ago, Martin Skrtel and Steven Gerrard. Read more about sharing. Casillas and Pepe played at Anfield. Ronaldo also provides a commentary on the Premier League's desire to be rated as the best in the world. How Liverpool solve the problem of Mario will be one of their biggest conundrums. Cavalieri, Hyypia, Ngog, Kelly. Liverpool had Pepe Reina in his prime in goal, Jamie Carragher in defence, a midfield containing Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano that could stand comfortably alongside almost any in Europe and Fernando Torres in such form on that March night that one observer described him as "a silver bullet in football boots. Once that failed, after roughly 20 minutes, Real effectively said: Sterling effort If there is one player carrying the fight for Liverpool it is Raheem Sterling - and he was even given the responsibility of taking the attack to Real's centre-halves after Balotelli was hauled off. Liverpool's midfield on Wednesday was Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen while the departure of Suarez, Sturridge's injury and Balotelli's failings left them without serious threat. They have been absent from the Champions League from December until Rodgers returned them to the elite after almost winning the title last season - Wednesday showed how much ground they have lost. It takes something special for a player so closely associated with the old enemy Manchester United to be applauded off at Anfield - but large sections of Liverpool's support rose to Cristiano Ronaldo when he was substituted after 75 minutes. Aside from "shirtgate", Rodgers' more significant comments centred on how Balotelli was subbed at half-time, adding that he wanted more pressing and pressure on Real's central defenders. Gareth Bale may have been absent but his replacement Isco was arguably man of the match. He is very much a work in progress but there are wonderful raw materials to work with and his contribution on Wednesday drew praise from both Rodgers and Real coach Carlo Ancelotti. Sterling has played 68 games with 44 starts and scored nine goals - at Manchester United Ronaldo had made 50 starts out of 68 at the same stage and scored 14 goals. An airy "casting pearls before swine" wave of Balotelli's hand after a wayward pass was not read by his team-mates caused more dissatisfaction and he was on his way before taking his shirt off. So what to do now? Where are they now? Liverpool have gone from having arguably the world's most intense striker in Luis Suarez to a striker who appears to regard movement and work as some sort of optional extra. Both started at Anfield on Wednesday. The lack of that brilliant attacking this season leaves them even more exposed. Torres 16, Gerrard 28 pen, 47, Dossena The stats are assembled around Ronaldo like a monument to his greatness. Fernando Torres is on loan at AC Milan. Liverpool's Champions League win was their last major trophy in Europe The last word goes to Balotelli's gesture was ill-advised, badly-timed with Liverpool down at half-time and an affront to former players who recognise the unique bond the shirt has between players and fans at this club.
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