LIVERPOOL - Brendan Rodgers conceded Liverpool had been taught a lesson after Real Madrid swept to an imperious 3-0 victory that left his side in severe danger of Champions League elimination.
Rodgers' team were powerless to prevent the holders from cementing their position on top of Group B with a ruthless demolition job at Anfield on Wednesday.
Carlo Ancelotti's side were out of sight by half-time after Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with his 70th Champions League goal - one behind record-holder Raul - and then Karim Benzema netted twice in quick succession to punish dreadful Liverpool defending.
It was a chastening defeat for Liverpool, who desperately needed a positive result to keep their bid to reach the last 16 in their own hands.
Yet Rodgers had no complaints about the result and admitted he only hoped Real's performance would prove a valuable lesson for his young team.
"I thought they were outstanding. They've got many players with big-game experience and quality right through the group," Rodgers said.
"In the first part of the game we looked a threat, but the first goal knocked us back a bit and very quickly we conceded two poor goals.
"They played very well. The quality and speed of their game is at a high level." With only three points from their three group fixtures, Liverpool will make the daunting trip to the Bernabeu for the rematch with Madrid on November 4 well aware that another defeat would leave them facing an earlier than expected exit.
Rodgers hopes his team's more controlled second half display offers hope of a better result in Spain.
"You'd see lots of teams maybe crumble at 3-0 down against a very good team with speed on the counter, but I was proud of my players, in a young team, with the way they kept going," he added.
But to make matters worse, Rodgers has found himself embroiled in a series of problems with two of his key players.
Mario Balotelli angered the Reds boss with the latest in a growing list of lacklustre displays and then compounded the problem by swapping shirts with Real's Pepe before being hauled off at half-time.
Rodgers frowns on such antics and plans to take action against the eccentric Italy striker, who has scored only once in 10 appearances.
He was also forced to defend winger Raheem Sterling again just a week after the teenager was criticised for telling England manager Roy Hodgson he was too tired to play against Estonia.
A tabloid newspaper reported that Sterling spent the evening in a nightclub soon after being released from international duty and Rodgers said: "For Raheem it's obviously just important he focuses on his football. It's unfortunate for him, as a young kid, that six days before a game he can't go for a night out.
"Some people might think there's a story in that, but there's nothing in it. He's 100 per cent entitled to go out.
"He's getting a lot of attention that comes with his rise. But I thought he was fine. He's working hard." With a last 16 place almost secured, Ancelotti has no such problems as he turns his attention to Saturday's El Clasico showdown with Barcelona.
"It's a very important victory against a team that tried everything they could to create problems for us," he said.
"I think we are in really great form. Everyone is focused, we are all fit and in good condition.
"I think Barcelona are probably in a good position as well, but we are where we want to be and playing well." After savouring the sweet taste of their 10th European Cup crown last season, Ancelotti says Real are in the mood for an 11th.
"Maybe it's too soon to talk about a cycle of success. But we enjoyed what happened last season and we are fighting hard to repeat that," he said.