Vinicius Jr, the Brazilian forward who made life easier for Real Madrid with a double-strike in their 3-1 win over over Liverpool in Champions League quarter-final first leg, came in for some wholesome praise from coach Zinedine Zidane.
“I’m delighted for him, we are seeing some fantastic stuff from him right now,” Zidane told reporters. Before Tuesday, the 20-year-old had scored only 12 goals in 105 games for the Spanish giants while his erratic play led to strike partner Karim Benzema telling teammate Ferland Mendy to avoid passing to the forward during halftime at a Champions League game earlier this season.
“We know how good he can be when he gets into space, as he showed with the first goal, which was fantastic.”
“He was lacking a goal here or there and getting two tonight will really lift his confidence, he deserved what happened tonight,” added Zidane.
Vinicius, who kissed the Real badge after each of his goals, admitted he was exhausted after his performance. “I gave everything for this shirt, which I love so much,” said.
“I work so hard here, I dreamed of playing for Real Madrid and with the best players and that’s why I’m so keen, that’s why I work so hard at training and at home.
“People on the outside can talk all they want but I always worked, my teammates have given me the strength I needed to get to this stage and score the goals we needed.”
Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp, meanwhile, blasted his players for playing into Real’s hands. “We made it too easy for them,” Klopp told reporters.
You cannot defend the speed of Real Madrid when you give them the ball at the wrong moments. If you lose ball in the right moment it’s OK. We lost the ball, so many easy passes. You have really quick and world class players in one on ones. We have to be better in possession
“If you want to go to the semi-final, you have to earn the right to do so. We didn’t do that tonight, especially in the first half. The only good thing I can say, apart from the goal, is it’s only the first half of the tie.”
As well as lamenting their lack of concentration, Klopp was disappointed with his side giving the ball away too casually, which led to him hauling off Naby Keita before halftime for Thiago Alcantara.
“You cannot defend the speed of Real Madrid when you give them the ball at the wrong moments. If you lose ball in the right moment it’s OK. We lost the ball, so many easy passes. You have really quick and world class players in one on ones. We have to be better in possession,” he said.
“We just didn’t play good enough football to cause Real Madrid more problems.”
The German coach had a glimmer of hope for next week’s second leg back on Merseyside though due to Mohammed Salah’s goal. “We didn’t deserve a lot more but that one goal and the second half was OK. It gives us a lifeline,” he added.