Liverpool vice-captain Jordan Henderson admits the lesson they were taught by Real Madrid shows just how much they have to improve to compete with Europe's elite.
A 3-0 defeat - with all the goals coming in an 18-minute first-half spell after the visitors had weathered the early storm - hardly told the full story.
The defending champions, with one eye on Saturday's El Clasico at home to Barcelona, took their foot off the gas after the break which did Liverpool a favour but still could have added to their tally.
"This Real Madrid team is top class with the best players in the world but that's who you want to be playing against and testing yourself, always trying to improve ourselves as a team," said the England midfielder. "That's where we want to get to - to be a top team like Madrid playing at the highest level and I think we can do that.
"The first 20 minutes I felt as though we had a right good go and got in behind them a couple of times.
"We had a couple of half-chances to get a goal and then you never know but we just need to be a bit more ruthless in the final third.
"When you are on top you need to put your chances away.
"Hopefully we can keep improving and work on the things we didn't do quite so well."
Liverpool 0 Real Madrid 3 player ratings
Liverpool 0 Real Madrid 3 player ratings
1/22 Liverpool: Simon Mignolet
Could do nothing about the first two goals but the third was a defensive mess. Made one very fine save from Cristiano Ronaldo - 6/10
2/22 Glen Johnson
If it was not Ronaldo sprinting down Real's left, it was full-back Marcelo, adding up to a difficult night for Johnson, who also allowed Karim Benzema a free header for the second goal - 5
3/22 Martin Skrtel
Beaten by the brilliance of Ronaldo for the first goal then outmuscled by Pepe for the third - 5
4/22 Dejan Lovren
This was a thoroughly uncomfortable night for the Liverpool defence as a whole, but Lovren fared a little better than his team-mates - 6
5/22 Alberto Moreno
An early threat going forward but given a tough time by Real's attacking triumvirate - 5
6/22 Jordan Henderson
Worked hard but gave the ball away too often as Real overpowered Liverpool in midfield - 5
7/22 Steven Gerrard
Began brightly and tested Iker Casillas with a fine shot in the 11th minute. Thereafter occupied trying to stifle Real's attacking threat - 6
8/22 Joe Allen
Had one of Liverpool's better efforts on goal in the first half but outclassed in midfield - 5
9/22 Raheem Sterling
Looked Liverpool's most dangerous attacker, with his pace troubling Real, but too often had to try to do the whole lot himself - 6
10/22 Mario Balotelli
Retained despite heavy criticism but very ineffective and hauled off at half-time - 4
11/22 Philippe Coutinho
Looked bright to start with before fading as Real took over. Hit the post with a fine effort at the end of the first half before being substituted in the second - 5
12/22 Iker Casillas
The veteran Spain goalkeeper was making his 143th Champions League appearance, equalling all-time record holder Xavi. His form has been shaky but dealt with the few threats that came his way very capably - 6
13/22 Alvaro Arbeloa
The former Liverpool full-back enjoyed a good tussle with Sterling and then Lallana - 6
14/22 Raphael Varane
Not too much to worry about for the young French defender - 6
Set up the third goal with his persistence and had a comfortable night in defence - 6
A real presence in Real's attack and Liverpool did not manage to exploit the gaps he left - 7
A fine, energetic performance from the midfielder - 7
18/22 Luka Modric
Instrumental in Real's control of the midfield - 8
19/22 Toni Kroos
Immaculate in front of the back four and set up Benzema's goal with a fine cross. Booked for fouling Sterling - 8
20/22 James Rodriguez
Had to be patched up after an early blow to the head and had done little until his lovely chip set up Ronaldo - 7
21/22 James Rodriguez
Two goals for the Frenchman and it might have been more - 8
22/22 Cristiano Ronaldo
The former Manchester United man, not surprisingly, was greeted by plenty of boos. He had scored more goals this season than Liverpool's entire team and it took him only 23 minutes to add another sublime strike. A constant threat and substituted with Saturday's Clasico in mind - 8
Cristiano Ronaldo's sublime finish - his first goal at Anfield and Real's first against Liverpool in their fourth meeting - kicked things off with Karim Benzema benefiting from the Reds' aerial vulnerability to score a header and then convert from close range at a corner.
"For me, Ronaldo is the best player in the world. Big players in big games do big things," added Henderson.
"For the first goal it was an outstanding finish. From then on we struggled to really get going again until the second half, when we increased it and were a little bit better.
"We were playing for a bit of pride. We knew if we got a goal we could try to get back in the game."
Despite the defeat Liverpool remain third in Group B as Ludogorets' win over Basel means all the three teams who have lost to Real so far are level on three points.
Brendan Rodgers' side now have to go to the Bernabeu in a fortnight where they will face an even tougher task although Henderson insists they should not be written off in the return fixture.
"We always believe we can get a result, no matter who we play," he said.
"We just need to concentrate on winning our games. We've got Madrid away next and we need to go there and hopefully get something.
"After that we then just have to win our games."
Much of the post-match comment centred on misfiring striker Mario Balotelli - who was replaced at the break - swapping shirts with Real defender Pepe as they walked down the tunnel at half-time.
It was not a topic for conversation among the squad though.
"It hasn't been discussed in the dressing room," said Henderson.
"I don't think anyone knew he had even done it. It's certainly the first I've heard of it."
Fellow midfielder Joe Allen felt they could take some positives from their second half display, despite Real playing at probably 70 per cent.
"It was very difficult. We are playing the reigning champions and they certainly proved why they are that," said the Wales international.
"The first goal from Ronaldo was clinical and it almost came out of nowhere.
"Then they punish you on the counter-attack when we were trying to get back in the game and then they scored again and it made it almost impossible to .
"There are plenty of aspects we need to work on but I think to have been three down at half-time the way we came out in the second half we still threw everything at them and everyone gave 100 per cent and in that respect I think everyone can be proud of themselves.
"We will still give everything to progress. We will look forward to the return fixture at the Bernabeu and let's see what happens."
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