Despite that on the surface the first leg draw at Anfield seemed to set things up well for Liverpool heading into the second, in previous Champions League campaigns, a side that drew the first leg at home nil-nil only went on to advance a third of the time.
Such is the advantage of playing at home in the second leg that, two-thirds of the time, the side in Bayern’s position last night would be expected to advance. Instead, Liverpool were dominant, making it look as though the outcome was never in any doubt.
“I feel like we’ve taken a really big step,” said midfielder Gini Wijnaldum following Liverpool’s 3-1 victory at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday. “A lot of people said after the first match that it was not a good result to play a nil-nil, but we had a good feeling about it.
“We know the way we’re playing we can always create chances, so we were quite confident we would create chances here and score goals. A lot of teams struggle here to get a result, but we still did it. We have a lot of confidence but we also work hard.”
Liverpool will also have felt confident for outplaying Bayern as thoroughly as they did in the first leg, and for the fact that their opponents set up against them showing respect—and maybe even fear—despite their history and standing as Germany’s biggest club.
What that historical record, that clubs that draw nil-nil at home in the first leg advance a third of the time, couldn’t properly account for was the way that this nil-nil was celebrated by Bayern and grumbled about by Liverpool, who felt they should have won.
Liverpool were the clearly better side in the first leg but didn’t get the goals their play deserved. In the second, they sustained their performance level and the goals their play deserved came. Now, on Friday, they will learn who they will face next.
Some, including most fans and even the manager, will have their preferences. Wijnaldum, though, doesn’t, insisting he “doesn’t mind” any draw Liverpool get. Whoever it is, he’s part of a group that will—probably rightly—believe they have what it takes to advance.