Liverpool were taught a footballing lesson by Real Madrid on a torrid Champions League night at Anfield.
The Reds succumbed to a 0-3 defeat, with goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and a brace from Karim Benzema arriving in a devastating 18 minute spell.
The Reds made a positive start to the match, pressing high with good intensity and causing one or two problems for Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
Mario Balotelli wasted a fine chance to play Raheem Sterling in on the left hand side, but was caught in possession having delayed his pass.
Steven Gerrard is still looking for his first goal in open play this season, with 16 of his last 17 goals coming from either free kicks or penalties. The Reds captain came close to finding it with a 25 yard drive that forced Casillas into a scampering save.
Real Madrid weathered the early storm and gradually started to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
And it was a moment of magic that broke the deadlock, when Cristiano Ronaldo fired his first Anfield goal in style.
After intricate play on the edge of the box, James Rodriguez played a delightful chip ball over the top of Dejan Lovren. Ronaldo met the ball in one movement, sweeping the ball beyond the despairing dive of Simon Mignolet with 23 minutes on the clock.
Liverpool spent the next seven minutes on the ropes, and it wasn’t long before Real Madrid effectively made it game over.
The Reds failure to clear a set piece saw the ball eventually fall to Toni Kroos on the edge of the box. Under no pressure, the German international curled a superb cross to the back post, where Karim Benzema had lost Glen Johnson. The French forward looped a perfect header beyond the stranded Simon Mignolet.
And 11 minutes later it got even worse for Liverpool, as once again a set piece proved costly. Benzema had a simple tap in after the Reds failed to clear a routine corner, with Dejan Lovren, Martin Skrtel and Simon Mignolet hardly covering themselves in glory.
That goal was in fact the seventh the Reds have conceded from set pieces this season.
Liverpool enjoyed perhaps their best spell of the game in the four minutes that followed before half time, with Joe Allen shooting narrowly wide from the edge of the box having been teed up by Balotelli.
Philippe Coutinho nearly pulled a goal back on the stroke of half time, with a superb 25 yard strike that rattled the woodwork.
Mario Balotelli was withdrawn for Adam Lallana at the interval, with the Italian having been caught swapping shirts at half time with Real Madrid centre back Pepe.
Liverpool started the second half as brightly as they did the first, without creating anything clear cut.
It was Real who looked the more likely to score another, with Cristiano Ronaldo denied a second of the game from close range by a decent block from Mignolet.
Raheem Sterling was deployed in the false nine role in the second half, and as expected he was the man who produced Liverpool’s brightest moments.
A curling shot was comfortably tipped over by Iker Casillas, whilst former Reds defender Alvaro Arbeloa denied the youngster with a last ditch headed clearance following a Glen Johnson cross.
Real Madrid almost added a late fourth through James Rodriguez, with the Colombian shooting narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
The Reds were grateful for the final whistle, as the fans showed their class with a rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, before applauding the reigning European champions off the pitch.
A night to forget for the Reds, but hopefully one to be learnt from.
“The first 22 minutes of the game we were excellent but from the first goal to half time Real Madrid showed their real quality.
“They were terrific. Second half we played for pride and we were outstanding, the players kept going, they didn’t stop. We defended poorly but I can’t ask any more.
“You can see Real’s quality. Speed, technique; you can see why they are champions. The second and third goals are from set-pieces again, it’s an issue for us and we have to be better than that.”