Bayern Munich 1 - 3 Liverpool
Bayern Munich: Matip (OG) 39’
Liverpool: Mané 26’, 84’, van Dijk 69’
Despite failing to record a win in the home leg against the Bavarians, Liverpool traveled to Germany in high spirits, well aware that a scoring draw or better would be enough to see them through to the quarter finals, and having both denied the opposition much in the way of chances last time out, while creating several opportunities for themselves.
The night didn’t start off too well, however, as Jordan Henderson went down with ankle trouble following an innocuous-looking challenge from James Rodríguez. The hosts nearly took advantage of the captain’s absence, too, with Thiago Alcântara curling a 20-yard effort well over Alisson’s bar while the Reds were down to ten men. Henderson was reintroduced and moved awkwardly for a few minutes, while Robert Lewandowski almost found himself through on goal, opting instead to throw himself to the ground under the challenge of Virgil van Dijk rather than chase the ball over the top
Fabinho replaced the his captain minutes later, and the match continued with a similar simmering tension to the one that had defined the first leg of the tie, as both sides were careful not to overextend and leave themselves exposed to a counter attack.
Halfway through the frame, Roberto Firmino saw a 20-yard effort swerves wide of the near post, marking the visitors’ first attempt on goal, and a mere minute later, the Reds took the lead. A van Dijk ball over the top found the run of Sadio Mané, and the Senegalese attackers brought the ball down perfectly. Manuel Neuer had — as Manuel Neuer does — rushed off his line to close down the forward, but was left for dead as Mané spun, and with the goal gaping, the former Southampton man delivered a delicate chip with his off leg to put the Reds in front.
That goal meant that Bayern would need two goals to advance, and with 120 minutes gone and not a single shot on target produced by the Bavarians, the away side looked terribly comfortable at the Allianz.
On the half hour, Trent Alexander-Arnold provided the opposition with an opportunity, however, giving the ball away in midfield and putting his defense under pressure. Lewandowski’s effort was struck straight at Alisson, but nonetheless served as a warning that the sting had not entirely left this aging Bayern side.
Five minutes later, a Liverpool counter saw Mané feeding a streaking Andrew Robertson, but the fullback’s driven effort was parried at the near post by Neuer. The Scot would be in focus once more five minutes from the whistle, as he stepped up to play offside on a long ball over the top, but failed to account for the fact that the rest of his defensive line stood firm. As a result, Serge Gnabry was allowed to drive to the touchline and smack a cross into the Liverpool six-yard box, where Matip could do little but touch it into his own net.’
A scoring draw would still see the Reds advance, but Bayern were back in the contest despite having had to put in very little work, and there were undoubtedly headlines about cracking under the pressure being tentatively dreamed up by hack sports writers worldwide.
The Bavarian onslaught never materialised in the second half, however, and it was the visitors who produced the first chance, as Mohamed Salah forced a save from Neuer after another Liverpool break. On the hour mark, the home side could have changed their fate, as Gnabry once again pounced on careless positioning from Robertson, but Lewandowski was unable to reach the winger’s driven cross, and it rolled out of touch for a throw-in.
Ten minutes later, the Reds put the tie out of reach. An extended period of pressure was followed by a series of corners, and Neuer had to reach into his top corner to keep out an attempted olimpico from Alexander-Arnold. It mattered not, however, as the very next set piece saw man-mountain Virgil van Dijk demolish Mats Hummels and Javier Martínez in the air, heading James Milner’s delivery into the bottom corner.
The Reds were piling on the pressure now, again forcing a series of corners, but despite the ball bouncing around the Bayern area, no clear shot attempt transpired. Fifteen minutes from time, yet another counter attack saw Salah dribble into the box, but the Egyptian took at least one touch too many, and Nicklas Süle was able to intervene just as the striker took his shot, and Neuer hacked the rolling ball away from a waiting Mané.
The home side were struggling to produce anything of their own at this point, and after Roberto Firmino had tested Neuer from range again, he was replaced by Divock Origi. The Belgian immediately brought down a long ball on his chest and cut infield, picking out Salah on the opposite flank. Having grown weary of running at defenders, the Egyptian instead flicked his boot at the ball, producing an absolutely sensational, Guggenheim-worthy chip onto the head of his strike partner, allowing Mané to head home from close range, finishing the night with a flourish.
For all the scintillating offense the Reds produced in last year’s Champions League, this performance was just about as impressive as anything Jürgen Klopp’s men managed last season. Professionally dispatching one of the European giants over two legs, and holding one of the world’s very best strikers to only two shots in 180 minutes shows just how far this team has come under their German manager.
Sadio Mané continues to prove himself as one of the most clutch big-game players the club has seen in recent memory, and the Reds will fancy their chances against any side they might find themselves up against in the next stage of the tournament.
The draw for the quarter-finals takes place this Friday, and with all restrictions lifted and four Premier League teams still in the competition, the probability is high that Liverpool could face off with a domestic opponent in the next round.