— Sports

Real Madrid ousts Liverpool, reaches Champions League semis

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) – Real Madrid secured its return to the Champions League semifinals after a two-season absence by holding Liverpool to a 0-0 draw Wednesday, protecting a 3-1 advantage from the first leg. Liverpool created chance after chance, but Mohamed Salah,

Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane could find no way past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and a makeshift defense that stifled a front three that has endured a season of frustration. A scene of many memorable European comebacks, Anfield lacked the fans who often inspired Liverpool in similar situations.

The only way Liverpool supporters could make their presence felt was outside the stadium with a red haze of flares greeting the teams before the game – and one of the Madrid buses being hit by an object that smashed a window. But while the record 13-time European champions can look forward to a semifinal against Chelsea, Liverpool’s last route to a trophy this season has now been shut off.

It’s quite a comedown for Jürgen Klopp’s side, which won the Champions League in 2019 – after losing 2018 final to Madrid – and ended a 30-year English championship drought by winning the Premier League by an 18-point margin 2020. Now Liverpool is struggling to make the Champions League places, sitting three points outside the top four with seven games to go.

While Liverpool’s season has imploded, reaching the European semifinals is the latest sign of the recovery overseen by Zinedine Zidane at Madrid.

Trailing Atletico Madrid by 10 points in January, Zidane’s team is now just a single point behind, and the title defense is back on. And the season could yet end with a fourth Champions League title since 2016.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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