By Matt Ramirez – @Matt_J_Ramirez
Jürgen Klopp’s side put on a valiant display in an end-to-end and entertaining 0-0 draw at Anfield against Bayern Munich.
The first leg of the Round of 16 UEFA Champions League tie saw both sides come close throughout the match with Liverpool, in particular, arguably looking the most dangerous throughout the encounter.
Due to the suspension of Virgil van Dijk, Klopp was forced to shuffle his defence – calling on Fabinho to join Joel Matip in the heart of defence. Trent Alexander-Arnold made a starting return at right back after a lengthy lay-off through injury, and captain Jordan Henderson filled in for Fabinho in the centre of midfield.
Liverpool started the game in a fashion reminiscent to last season’s Champions League run, set-up in a 4-3-3 formation and utilising an intense high pitch press – with Manuel Neuer in particular struggling to deal with the pressure from the front three.
The Reds certainly started the stronger of the two sides, with Salah getting the first chance of the game after 10 minutes. A pinpoint Henderson ball over the top found the Egyptian in behind who attempted to volley the ball home. Unfortunately for those in attendance, Salah was unable to get any real power on the strike, with Neuer able to make a relatively comfortable save.
Despite having the majority of control, however, the Reds had Alisson to thank for keeping the game level within the opening 15 minutes – saving with his chest from a mishit Matip clearance. Moments later, the Brazilian’s footwork was found wanting but, fortunately for the keeper, Bayern couldn’t take advantage with Kingsley Coman only able to find the side netting.
Liverpool responded well to the Bayern threat and continued their domination of the German side. The Reds again missed a golden chance to go ahead in the 30th minute, this time the opportunity falling to Mané who was unmarked in the Bayern area.
The Senegalese hitman found the ball at his feet and swivelled on the spot before pulling his left-footed attempt wide of Neuer’s post.
Klopp’s side continued to push on for the remainder of the half and were unfortunate to not find themselves ahead by half time.
Brilliant link up play in the closing minutes between Firmino and Salah saw the Brazilian drill the ball into the path of Matip. The centre back was unable to get his attempt on target, and could only fire wide from point blank range. At half-time the scores were 0-0.
The second half got off to a tentative start, but within 15 minutes of the restart both sides went close.
Liverpool had the first opportunity of the half, when a Niklas Sule clearance cannoned off Andrew Robertson and almost landed perfectly in the path of Salah. In regards to the visitors’ chance, Serge Gnabry continued to cause problems down the right-flank, and had Alisson scrambling when he unleashed an effort from just outside the area.
The hectic first half seemed to have taken its toll on both sides, leading to a rather subdued second 45 minutes. Despite this, Liverpool still looked somewhat dangerous on the counter attack and almost took the lead through a Mané header in the 85th minute which required intervention by Neuer.
Mané’s headed chance was to be the last of the game and those in attendance had to settle for a rather entertaining 0-0 draw.
Despite not having a lead to take with them to Munich, Klopp will fancy his chances of qualifying to the quarter-finals when the Reds travel to Germany on March 13th. Joshua Kimmich picked up a yellow card in the first half meaning he will miss the second leg through suspension, and Van Dijk will once again be available for selection for the Reds.
Liverpool’s attention now turns towards Manchester United on Sunday, when the Reds visit Old Trafford in attempt to reclaim the top spot in the Premier League.