Liverpool suffered their third consecutive Champions League defeat, going down to a 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Tuesday evening.
All the talk prior to kick off was Brendan Rodgers controversial decision to field a weakened team for the game in Spain.
Captain Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Dejan Lovren, Philippe Coutinho, Glen Johnson and Mario Balotelli all started the game on the sidelines.
Meanwhile, opportunities were given to the likes of Kolo Toure, Emre Can, Lucas Leiva, Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana and Fabio Borini.
Whilst many questioned the wisdom of leaving out so many key players for such a tough fixture, Liverpool equipped themselves well over the 90 minutes, staying in the game until the very last moment and playing some decent possession football.
As expected, it was Real Madrid who dominated possession and created the most opportunities, but Kolo Toure, Lucas Leiva and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet in particular excelled in keeping the Champions League holders at bay.
Mignolet was forced into the first of many decent stops of the evening after five minutes, tipping a shot from James Rodriguez round the post.
The Belgian was called into action just seven minutes later, tipping the ball over the bar from Cristiano Ronaldo to get stand in captain Martin Skrtel out of jail, after the Slovakian had been dispossessed by Karim Benzema on the edge of his own box.
The Frenchman was a thorn in the Reds side when the two teams met a fortnight ago, scoring twice as Real ran out 3-0 winners at Anfield.
And it was Benzema who got his name on the scoresheet once more, latching onto a superb low cross from Marcelo to turn the ball home at the back post on 27 minutes. It was Benzema’s fifth goal of the Champions League campaign, and ultimately proved the decider.
Liverpool showed they were not willing to buckle like they did at Anfield having conceded the first, and kept calm and composed for the remainder of the 45 minutes without Mignolet really being tested again.
Into the second half, and the Reds best opportunity of the match came on 62 minutes.
The impressive Alberto Moreno found Adam Lallana on the edge of the box, and the Reds number 20 took the ball superbly in his stride before firing a left footed shot across Iker Casillas and narrowly wide of the far post.
Fabio Borini toiled on his own up top all evening, and almost got a goal his hard work would have warranted when his free kick was deflected wide of Casillas’ goal.
He was unfortunate to have been adjudged to have caught Sergio Ramos before putting the ball in the back of the net with 20 minutes on the clock, with replays showing contact on the Spaniard by the Italian had been minimal to say the least.
By this point, Rodgers had sent on Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling to try and pull something out of the game for the Reds, but Madrid showed their class and composure to see the game out relatively comfortably.
They had introduced a substitute of their own by this point as well – world’s most expensive player Gareth Bale – and the former Tottenham man almost made it 2-0 when he struck the bar from just inside the box, having been picked out by the excellent Marcelo.
And even Cristiano Ronaldo failed to add his customery goal, with the superb Kolo Toure denying the world’s best player a second with a superb block inside the box.
Toure was especially outstanding for the Reds on a night when the performance was much improved from recent weeks. Lucas Leiva, Joe Allen and Emre Can all worked tirelessly in the middle of the park, whilst Fabio Borini offered more energy and positivity up top than Mario Balotelli has managed over the course of his Liverpool career.
Two wins from their final two matches in this Champions League group should still be enough to see the Reds qualify, after a night that will leave Brendan Rodgers with plenty to think about ahead of the weekend’s clash with Chelsea.