By Scott Mason – @ScottMason00
Liverpool were held to a goalless draw in a box-to-box and exciting clash with Bayern Munich. In a game that was anticipated to be filled with goals, it was the defences that outshone the attacks in the first leg of this Champions League round of 16 tie.
Regardless of the 0-0 scoreline however, there were many standout players who shone for Jürgen Klopp.
Captain Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita produced fantastic performances in the middle of the park while the centre back partnership of Joel Matip and Fabinho proved to be solid enough, despite its makeshift nature.
Liverpool had started the game with this defensive pairing due to the suspension of Virgil van Dijk and the unavailability of Dejan Lovren, who was ruled out through injury. The duo had many nervous about the Reds’ defence, but the Cameroonian and the Brazilian were both defensively solid throughout the game.
Fabinho, who is primarily a midfielder, had stepped in for the suspended Dutchman and has been rightfully praised for his defensive display in Tuesdays Champions League game. However, the performance of Matip is one that should be equally praised.
The opening minutes were shaky for Matip, as he almost turned Serge Gnabry’s low cross into his own net on the 13 minute mark. Three minutes later poor play from Alisson and Matip saw the Reds lose the ball on the edge of the area giving Kingsley Coman a chance at goal – fortunately the Frenchman could only find the side-netting.
After the shaky start, Matip composed himself and later proved to be vital in the heart of the defence. One of the defenders biggest contributions was his interception on Gnabry’s cross in the 42nd minute to deny Lewandowski a clear cut chance on goal.
The Cameroonian’s height was also noticed as Matip dominated the air – winning 100% of his aerial duels. Matip also intercepted the ball three times, the joint highest for the Reds along with Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The towering centre half also had the highest percentage of duels won over any other player to
start the game, coming in with an impressive success rate of 83%.
The 27-year-old’s impressive display could have been topped off by scoring, as he found himself not once, but twice with chances to put the ball into Bayern’s net. The first chance came just before half time when Roberto Firmino’s low cross found the defender, but the shot was blocked by Mats Hummels.
Matip’s second (and somewhat more difficult) attempt, came in the last ten minutes, as he found himself in the right place at the right time but scuffed his attempt wide from the edge of the area.
Despite the number 32’s shaky opening minutes, he was one of the best performers for Liverpool on the night. His and Fabinho’s displays at Anfield denied the Germans an away goal, which could prove vital in the return leg in Munich on March 13th.