Liverpool were left to rue a host of missed chances as Real Madrid held out for a 0-0 draw at Anfield to progress to the semi-finals of the Champions League 3-1 on aggregate.
Mohamed Salah and Georginio Wijnaldum were guilty of wasting glorious opportunities to get Jurgen Klopp’s men back into the tie as they failed to replicate a remarkable recovery from 3-0 down to beat Barcelona 4-3 on aggregate at the semi-final stage two years ago.
Madrid were far from their best, but did not need to be to set up a semi-final clash with Chelsea as Los Blancos extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 14 games.
Klopp admitted before the game that his players had to create their own atmosphere without the cauldron of noise that has accompanied famous European nights at Anfield in the past.
Despite the empty stands due to coronavirus restrictions, Liverpool flew out of the traps and should have halved their deficit within two minutes.
Sadio Mane knocked Ozan Kabak’s long ball perfectly into the path of Salah, but Liverpool’s one consistent performer in the final third this season fired straight at Thibaut Courtois.
Klopp surprisingly repeated his decision from the first leg to leave Thiago Alcantara on the bench with James Milner this time taking the place of the Spanish international in midfield.
Milner made his presence felt within a minute with a late lunge on Karim Benzema and nearly inflicted a different type of damage on Madrid 10 minutes in when his long-range effort forced Courtois into another fine save.
Real’s fine run has propelled them back into contention to defend their La Liga title and claim a 14th crown as European champions.
However, Zinedine Zidane warned after Saturday’s 2-1 El Clasico win over Barcelona that his players were at their “physical limit” and the visitors looked jaded as they were happy to sit on their first leg lead.
The closest Madrid came to scoring was when Kabak inadvertently deflected a Benzema cross off the outside of his own post with Alisson Becker wrong-footed.
Chances continued to come and go for Liverpool as Salah snatched at another effort that flew high and wide.
Yet, even without three of their first-choice back four, Madrid were comfortable defending deep as Roberto Firmino, Salah and Diogo Jota all had efforts blocked behind in quick succession.
Elsewhere, Manchester City set up a blockbuster Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain as Phil Foden’s second-half winner sealed a 2-1 victory at Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday to send the Premier League leaders through 4-2 on aggregate.
England midfielder Jude Bellingham gave Dortmund an early lead, but a second-half Riyad Mahrez penalty and Foden’s powerful strike moved City into the last four of Europe’s top club competition for the second time.
Having also scored the 90th-minute winner to give City a 2-1 victory in last week’s first leg in Manchester, England international Foden again broke Dortmund hearts.
City had bowed out at the quarter-final stage in each of the last three seasons, and had to come from behind at Signal Iduna Park as Dortmund shrugged off their indifferent Bundesliga form to take the lead on 15 minutes.
Four days after scoring his first Bundesliga goal, Bellingham also hit the back of the net for the first time in the Champions League.
After Mahmoud Dahoud fired straight at City goalkeeper Ederson with six minutes gone, Dortmund went ahead with their next clear chance.
Emre Can’s long ball found Erling Braut Haaland in the area, the Norwegian squaring for Dahoud, and although his shot was saved, Bellingham curled the rebound beyond Ederson.
Can looked crestfallen when he gave away the penalty 10 minutes after the break by heading a corner onto his own arm.
Mahrez converted the spot-kick by slamming the ball beyond Hitz.
The Algeria midfielder’s fist-clenched celebration showed what the away goal meant to City before he being mobbed by his teammates.
The winning goal came with 15 minutes to go when Mahrez took a short corner with Bernardo Silva, who found Foden on the edge of the penalty area.
The 20-year-old hit his shot left-footed shot low past Hitz and in off the post before sprinting to celebrate with Guardiola on the sidelines.