Real Madrid beat Liverpool; Gordon D’Arcy on size of Leinster’s Exeter challenge

The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Zinedine Zidane celebrates with Vinicius Junior after Real Madrid’s 3-1 win over Liverpool. Photograph: Kiko Huesca/EPA

Zinedine Zidane celebrates with Vinicius Junior after Real Madrid’s 3-1 win over Liverpool. Photograph: Kiko Huesca/EPA

Liverpool’s Champions League hopes took a major dent last night, as they were beaten 3-1 away from home by Real Madrid in the first leg of their quarter-final tie. Zinedine Zidane’s side were utterly dominant in the first-half, with goals from Junior Vinicius and Marco Asensio giving them a 2-0 lead at the interval. Mohamed Salah gave the visitors a lifeline in the 51st minute before Junior Vinicius restored his side's two-goal cushion, leaving the 13-times winners in the driving seat. Elsewhere a late Phil Foden strike gave Manchester City a 2-1 win against Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad. City took the lead through Kevin De Bruyne before 17-year-old Jude Bellingham’s equaliser was bizarrely ruled out before half-time. Marco Reus levelled the tie in the 84th minute but Foden’s late strike restored City’s advantage. In tonight’s other last-eight ties, Bayern Munich welcome PSG to the Allianz Arena while Chelsea play their away leg against Porto in Seville (kick-off 8pm).

Leinster take on defending European champions Exeter this weekend, with the Pro14 winners travelling to Sandy Park for a daunting Champions Cup last-eight tie. The Irish province head into the fixture on the back of two weeks off after they were awarded a bye against Toulon - Exeter meanwhile showed composure and clarity as they went 14-0 down against Lyon before running out 47-25 winners. And in his column this morning Gordon D’Arcy is under no illusions of the size of the task facing an under-strength Leinster side: “The way they [Exeter] play demands an enormous work rate by players off the ball and all the fundamental skills on it. The third person arriving at a ruck is the scrumhalf. The way they play requires months, years even of dedicated drills. I expect a throwback to Hagler versus Hearns in the opening exchanges at Sandy Park. The trick is to stay in the fight because Exeter will score tries.” With the likes of Garry Ringrose and James Ryan missing makes Leinster slight underdogs, but regardless, D’Arcy writes: “The game of the season is coming.”

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