By Matt Ramirez – @Matt_J_Ramirez
Liverpool progressed through to the last eight of the UEFA Champions League with a convincing 3-1 away win against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
Sadio Mané opened the scoring for Jürgen Klopp’s men before a Joel Matip own goal saw the hosts draw level. Virgil van Dijk got the second goal for Liverpool in the second half, with Mané netting again in the closing moments to kill off the tie.
Klopp made two changes from the side that beat Burnley 4-2 at the weekend. Despite picking up a man of the match performance, Adam Lallana was replaced by club captain Jordan Henderson. Klopp’s second change was also a midfield swap, as James Milner was brought in for Fabinho.
The opening minutes saw a relatively even split of possession as both sides started cautiously with both sets of players feeling their way into the game. Unfortunately for Liverpool, their game was disrupted early on due to an injury to Jordan Henderson in the 11th minute which forced the skipper to be replaced by Fabinho.
The injury seemed to unsettle the Reds as Bayern quickly began to dominate possession, taking the game by the scruff of the neck and controlling the midfield. As Fabinho became accustomed to the tempo of the match, Klopp’s men started to give the Bayern defence something to think about and soon they had a vital away goal.
In the most basic of build ups, Virgil van Dijk pumped the ball forward looking for the run of the on-form Mané. The Senegalese wide-man beat Rafinha for strength before expertly taking the ball down with a deft touch of his right foot as the ball dropped inside the Bayern box.
Manuel Neuer came rushing out to meet the number 10 who twisted and turned round the veteran keeper before chipping the ball over the head of the retreating defenders and into the empty net. Within 26 minutes of Klopp’s return to the Allianz, his side had the lead.
The 1-0 score line didn’t last long however, and within 15 minutes the hosts were level. Strikingly similar to the way Liverpool took the lead, a long ball forward found Serge Gnabry in hot pursuit.
The German winger took the ball under control before firing across goal in search of Robert Lewandowski. Although the ball never reached the Polish striker, the Reds found themselves suffering a hint of misfortune as the low cross cannoned off of Matip’s left boot and into Alisson’s net. After 39 minutes the score was level.
Liverpool could possibly count themselves fortunate for not being behind at the end of the half, but despite the increasing Bayern pressure, the teams went in level at half time.
At the start of the second half, Liverpool immediately looked the most threatening of the two sides, testing Manuel Neuer with a long range effort in the opening five minutes. A quick counter attack from a Bayern corner saw Salah test the German shot-stopper as the Reds gave the hosts a reminder of just how quickly they can pounce up the field.
As the minutes ticked away Liverpool continued to dominate second half possession, but the Bayern threat remained. In the 60th minute, a rare attack by the hosts saw Gnabry again drill a low cross in towards Lewandowski who was arriving in the six yard box.
The Polish striker was tracked by Matip, who seemingly did enough to unnerve the Bayern number nine as he failed to make contact with the ball. Lucky escape for Liverpool as any touch on the ball would have surely ended up in the back of Alisson’s net.
Despite the score-line favouring Liverpool, Klopp’s men continued to pour forward as they searched for the goal that would give them some breathing space. The Reds kept the pressure up and found the breakthrough second goal in the 69th minute.
A string of Liverpool corners saw the Reds pin back Bayern into their own penalty area and that’s where Van Dijk struck. A deep Milner cross into the heart of the Munich penalty area saw the Dutchman climb highest as he expertly directed the ball into Neuers’ bottom left hand corner.
The smile on Klopp’s face reflected that of the entire Red fanbase as the towering centre back pulled away in celebration whilst being swarmed by his teammates. With the score at 2-1, Liverpool had a foot in the quarter finals.
With Liverpool having taken the lead, all in attendance expected a Bayern onslaught as the current Bundelsiga champions required two goals to qualify. Nevertheless, the Liverpool pressure did not falter and soon after the travelling Reds fans had another goal to cheer.
Another high press saw the ball end up at the feet of the newly introduced Divock Origi. The Belgian striker played it wide to Salah who took a touch before lifting his head and flicking through a delightful cross with the outside of his foot into the path of Mané.
The cross, which evaded every Bayern defender fell sweetly for Mané who climbed alone to nod the ball into the back of the Bayern net. In the 84th minute Liverpool led the game 3-1 and Klopp could start planning for the quarter finals.
Unfortunately for Liverpool in the closing moments of injury time, Robertson picked up a yellow card which will see him unavailable for the first leg of the quarter finals due to suspension.
Klopp’s attention now turns to Fulham on Sunday as Liverpool will look to go top of the Premier League once again.