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Bayern Munich 0, Liverpool 3: Must. Maintain. Perspective.

The Reds gegenpress their way to their second cup final of the pre-season.

Audi Cup 2017 Press Conference Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images For AUDI

Bayern Munich 0
Liverpool 3 Mané 7’, Salah 35’, Sturridge 83’

In what was strongly reminiscent of their games against top opposition last year, the Reds outplay Bayern in their own backyard.

Liverpool fans were rightly salivating at the starting line-up Jürgen Klopp sent out at the Allianz on Tuesday, as Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah started together for the first time, swiveling around offensive hub Roberto Firmino, while Philippe Coutinho was pulled back into an attacking midfield role. It would turn out to be just as potent a front four as hoped, balanced out by a double pivot of captain Jordan Henderson and Emre Can.

The Bavarians possess some firepower of their own, however, and for the opening five minutes, they dominated possession with slick passing and movement, as the visitors struggled to close down their opponents quickly enough. The home side were unable to carve out any proper goal scoring opportunities, but it was clear that this was a step up in competition for the Reds.

Nonetheless, Liverpool went ahead after six minutes. Roberto Firmino did what Roberto Firmino does, picking the pocket of careless new-boy Corentin Tolisso, advancing the ball and then slipping it through for a streaking Sadio Mané. The Senegalese attacker made no mistake alone with Sven Ulreich, burying a left-footed effort into the far side netting. It looked exactly like something Klopp would have drawn up on the training pitch, and a warning shot for any team looking to keep the ball against this iteration of the Reds.

Bayern were clearly targeting Trent Alexander-Arnold on Liverpool’s right side, but, despite managing to put a few crosses in, struggled to create genuine chances, and on twelve minutes, the Reds nearly punished the hosts again. A brilliant bit of play from Firmino released Alberto Moreno into space down the left, and his beautiful early cross found Salah arriving at the back post. The Egyptian’s right-footed effort was blocked at the near post by the Bayern goalkeeper, but the visitors were looking dangerous.

The Reds struggled to maintain possession against an aggressive Bayern side, while neither team were able to create much from established play. Both teams were at the receiving end of some late challenges that would’ve warranted bookings in competitive games, and halfway through the frame, Firmino won a free kick at the edge of the Bayern box. MotM competitor Moreno bent a curving effort over the wall, but the ball was palmed away by Ulreich.

Ten more minutes would pass before another scoring chance arrived, and again, Mané and Moreno were involved. The former Southampton man held up the ball well, with Rafinha — having been thoroughly outmaneuvered all night — afraid to close him down, and released his fullback down the wing. The Spaniards hard, low cross took a deflection off a defender and beaten away by the goalkeeper, but only as far as the head of Salah eight yards out, who scored his second headed goal in pre-season.

Minutes later, the hosts created their first, and only, proper chance of the half, as Alexander-Arnold lost sight of David Alaba, and the Austrian fullback could ping a low cross in. Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski got in each other’s way, however, and the ball bounced harmlessly into the arms of Loris Karius. A late lunge from behind by Rafinha on Mané was the last thing of consequence to take place in the half, and the Reds went into the break, well pleased with their performance.

A typically handsome Georginio Wijnaldum and an upsettingly coiffed Adam Lallana replaced Mané and Can at half-time, and the Reds reverted to their familiar 4-3-3. Rumoured Reds target Renato Sanches received the yellowest of yellows for poggying on Firmino during a counter attack, and Salah was found marginally offside following a Lallana throughball. On the hour mark, former Real Madrid man Hamez Rodriguez hammered an effort a yard wide of the Reds post from 20-odd yards, as Bayern continued to struggle to break their visitors down.

A slew of substitutions took place on 66 minutes, as Daniel Sturridge, Ragnar Klavan, Marko Grujic and Ryan Kent took to the pitch in place of Firmino, Matip, Henderson and Salah. Only a minute later, Sturridge latched onto a loose ball and charged towards the Bayern goal, but his last touch took him away from the danger zone, and the England striker hooked his shot wide.

Rafinha undoubtedly anticipated he would have an easier time with Kent than he had had with Mané, but twenty minutes from time, those hopes were dashed. The 20-year old embarrassed his Brazilian counter part with a stepover and dash to the touchline, before cutting the ball back for pre-season king Marko Grujic on 18 yards. The Serbian buried his first-time shot in the near corner, via the post, but the goal was disallowed, as Adam Lallana was adjudged to have interfered with Ulreich while in an offside position. Technically the right decision, but the German goalkeeper was never getting to that ball regardless.

Sanches was lucky to stay on the pitch after yet another blatant shirt pull fifteen minutes from time, clearly frustrated with having been targeted by the Reds’ press all evening. Jon Flanagan and Ben Woodburn replaced Alexander-Arnold and Coutinho, and only a few minutes later, the latter did his best to imitate the man he succeeded, dinking a gorgeous outside-the-boot throughball into the path of Daniel Sturridge. The former Chelsea man encapsulated his entire career in a single instant, floating a delightful chip over the keeper from 20 yards out, before pulling up with a thigh strain. He was replaced by Dominic Solanke.

The Reds saw out the rest of the match without furter incident, and will be feeling good about themselves ahead of tomorrow’s Audi Cup final against Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid.

We’re getting hoarse from shouting about how IT’S ONLY PRE-SEASON, but this was very very good from Liverpool, almost what one would call a vintage Red performance against top opposition. Defensively compact when necessary, lethally direct on the counter, and able to adjust pressing and possession to the specific situation, limiting one of Europe’s best sides to a single chance worth mentioning.

Alberto Moreno put in one of his best outings in a Liverpool shirt, terrorising the opposition whenever he sprinted forward, but his defensive load was undoubtedly lightened by the fact that Bayern were intent on attempting to bully Trent Alexander-Arnold on the opposite flank. The 18-year old performer admirably, all things considered, but also showed enough flaws to put to rest any ideas that he should be starting over Nathaniel Clyne this season.

The Firmino, Mané, Salah triumvirate looked as potent as one had hoped and expected, and seem likely to be a study in the right player for the right job being a better approach than simply stacking gifted players on top of each other. Jürgen Klopp has a clear and coherent vision, and we are seeing it take shape.

Another cup final awaits on Wednesday, before the Reds travel to Spain and Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, in the ultimate pre-season fixture of the summer.

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