Vinicius Junior credits Madrid ‘legend’ Toni Kroos after Real beat Liverpool

Vinicius Junior praised Toni Kroos as a “legend” after the midfielder provided the assist for the Brazilian’s opening goal in Real Madrid‘s 3-1 Champions League quarterfinal first leg win over Liverpool on Tuesday.

The 20-year-old winger scored with 27 minutes played, controlling Kroos’ defence-splitting long ball with his chest before slotting past goalkeeper Alisson.

Marco Asensio grabbed a second after a mistake from Trent Alexander-Arnold before Mohamed Salah pulled a goal back for Liverpool, and Vinicius added a third, this time from a Luka Modric pass.

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– Hunter: Kroos the difference maker as Real thwart Liverpool

“Toni is incredible, he’s a great player, a legend of the club,” Vinicius said. “When he plays, he’s got a class that no one else has. I thank him for the pass.”

Vinicius — who has faced criticism since joining Real Madrid in 2018 for his erratic finishing — had only previously scored two Champions League goals, and doubled that tally on a night that saw Madrid take the initiative in the quarterfinal tie.

“People on the outside talk, but I keep working,” he said. “My teammates give me the strength required to arrive at the important moments and score the goals we need.”

Coach Zinedine Zidane said that his pre-match game plan had been to use the pace of Vinicius and Asensio to get in behind Liverpool’s defence.

“The first goal was fantastic, with the quality of Toni [Kroos] and Vini,” he said. “I’m happy for him, he needed to score … We know the player he is when he has space. Maybe he was lacking a goal. Scoring twice will give him a lot of confidence.”

Zidane also hit back at criticism from Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp, who had called Madrid’s Alfredo Di Stefano stadium — where the team are playing while the Santiago Bernabeu is being redeveloped — “a training pitch.”

“This is our stadium,” Zidane said. “We play here and we’re proud to play here.”

As well as lamenting their lack of concentration, Klopp said post-match that he was disappointed with Liverpool giving the ball away too casually, which led to him hauling off Naby Keita before half-time 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.

“We made it too easy for them.

“If you want to go to the semifinal, 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.”

The 3-1 win sees Real Madrid make a positive start to a crucial week, before facing Barcelona in El Clasico in La Liga on Saturday, followed by the return leg against Liverpool at Anfield next Wednesday.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.

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