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Liverpool’s Makeshift Defense Deserves Full Plaudits

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The Van Dijk-less unit allowed zero shots on target against Bayern Munich.

Liverpool v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Going into last night’s Round of 16 Champions League clash between Liverpool and Bayern Munich, a nil-nil draw seemed an unlikely outcome (indeed, according to the expected goals, it was).

Bayern had failed to keep a clean sheet in all of their 5 matches so far in 2019.

Liverpool, on the other hand, were down to their 4th and 5th choice center backs in Joel Matip and Fabinho (who isn’t technically a center back), respectively. Moreover, last night was Trent Alexander-Arnold’s first full 90 after an injury spell.

Of the two teams, Liverpool will be more disappointed in the results. The Merseyside Reds created far more going forward, only to find that last key pass or finish lacking.

But if Liverpool can take pride in any stat, it has to be the fact that they held their Bavarian visitors to precisely zero shots on target. Zero. Nada. Null. The 9 shots that Liverpool’s patchwork defense allowed were mostly low-percentage chances from distance or from tight angles.

There were awkward moments, of course. Joel Matip and Alisson Becker nearly conspired to provide an accidental assist for a Bayern goal. Again, the two nearly combined for what would have been a hilariously bad own goal. (Or rather, did they cancel each other out, thereby preventing it)? And Fabinho and Alisson both tried to clear the same ball, which is always a heart-in-mouth moment for supporters.

Regardless, they bent but never broke, and if Mohamed Salah et al. can find the back of the net in Allianz Arena once (or more!), Liverpool will have a good chance of advancing to the quarterfinals.

All Liverpool supporters (not to mention the players themselves) would have been happier taking a 1-0 or 2-0 away to Bavaria. However, we should all take heart in the all-around team display, which on another night would have seen the visitors played off the park.

I, for one, cannot wait for the second leg. With Virgil van Dijk, of course.