Liverpool 0 - 0 Bayern Munich
It was tense throughout, and both sides had chances to snatch a win, but in the end, Liverpool’s finishing and Bayern’s defensive discipline combined to produce a scoreless draw in the first leg of the Champions League knockout rounds.
With Virgil van Dijk suspended and the rest of his centre-backs injured, Jürgen Klopp was forced to drop Fabinho back into defense alongside Joël Matip, prompting predictions that Robert Lewandowski, lean mean goal machine, was going to have a field night against the makeshift backline.
The striker would take only a single shot on the night, but that did not mean the visitors were harmless. After Manuel Neuer nearly gifted the Reds a goal on five minutes, chipping a pass off Roberto Firmino’s head during one of the Germans’ long passing spells in their own third, and Jordan Henderson found Mohamed Salah with a glorious fifty-yard pass over the top only for the Egyptian to poke his finish straight at the goalkeeper, the Bavarians went close.
Serge Gnabry embarrassed Andrew Robertson down Liverpool’s left and smacked a cross into the six-yard box, where Matip was lucky to hit his clearance straight at Alisson. The teams exchanged chances, as Sadio Mane struck a left-foted effort wide of the post following some slick build-up play, before Alisson put Matip under pressure with a bad pass at the other end. The Cameroonian centre-back’s attempted flick went straight to Kingsley Coman, and the winger hammered an effort into the side netting.
Bayern had been aggressive to open the match, but at the midway point of the half, began to sink deeper, and their hosts built momentum. Naby Keita’s improvised overhead kick bobbled well wide of the post, before a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross following a set piece found Salah at the back post, but the Egyptian’s free header was nowhere near the target.
On the half hour, a terrific counter petered out as Robertson completely mishit his cross, and three minutes later, the Reds should have taken the lead. Keïta exhanged passes with Salah and got a shot off, but Nicklas Süle blocked the effort, first with his leg, then his hand. The ball fell to an unmarked Mane six yards out, but, misjudging how much time he had, the Senegalese attacker spun and swung at the ball, missing the target by yards.
Alisson made a routine save from a long-range effort at the other end, before another overhead kick, this time from Mane, flew over Neuer’s bar. Liverpool went close after a corner minutes later, as Salah backheeled the ball into Firmino, but the Brazilian’s cutback was struck inches wide of the post by Matip.
As injury time beckoned, the Reds strung together a sensational piece of attacking play, but as Firmino latched onto Georginio Wijnaldum’s deft through ball, the Brazilian opted for a lobbed cross to Mané rather than the finish, and the ball was too high for his strike partner to reach.
Having been caught in two minds during the last part of the first half — and having been lucky not to concede — Bayern came out and hunkered down in the second frame. They did so impressively, and where the Reds had been able to find space before, there was only a German leg ready to hack the ball clear.
The hosts went close ten minutes into the half, as an attempted clearance from a Keïta pass bounced off Robertson, but instead of bouncing into the back of the net, the ball fell to Salah by the touchline, and the Egyptian’s first touch let him down.
That was the sum total of what the Reds could muster in the second half, as they managed only five shots, while the visitors strung together 15 clearances in the final 30 minutes. Mane put a diving header from an awkward angle on target with five minutes to go, and Matip headed an Alexander-Arnold corner over the bar a minute later, but the visitors hung on for the draw, and will be happy with the result ahead of the return leg.
Frustrating as it may be to not have notched a goal or two, Klopp should be pleased with tonight’s effort. His Liverpool side produced enough chances to win the game, and had it not been for some impressively resolute German defending to go with the missed chances, could have taken the game comfortably.
All of which is to say, there’s no reason the Reds — one van Dijk stronger — can’t go to the Allianz Arena in two weeks and avoid a loss, which could be enough to advance to the quarter finals. Should they score a goal as well, they could get it done in regulation time, and, despite their missed chances on Tuesday night, few would bet on this Liverpool team to go scoreless in consecutive matches.
Next up, a prestige trip to Manchester, where a resurgent United side need beating if the Reds are to retake their lead at the top of the Premier League table.