Liverpool restricted Bayern Munich to zero shots on targets on Tuesday night, putting in a strong performance in the absence of Virgil van Dijk. The Germans created no big chances, stifled by a make-shift centre-back partnership of Joel Matip and Fabinho while Jurgen Klopp’s side were unable to capitalise on their chances, particularly from Sadio Mané’s skewed shot inside the first-half.
Fabinho shows his worth at centre-back
Tasked with filling in at centre-back in the absence of Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho proved his worth once again, displaying the versatility that was so instrumental in gaining him a move to Anfield last summer. The Brazilian international previously filled in at the back in the 1-0 league win over Brighton as well as the cup game against Wolves and used his experience once again to stifle Bayern, sliding in with well-timed tackles to prevent the German’s from building up ahead of steam.
Indeed, in a duo that contained a natural centre-half in Joel Matip, it was Fabinho who stood out as the more comfortable of the two – that being an indication of his quality rather than an indictment of his teammates efforts. His composure and overall ability to read the game, snuffing out the danger before it arises, will give Klopp options in the near future while Dejan Lovren’s injury woes continue. For now, a clean sheet and an extension to 20 unbeaten European games at Anfield provide evidence of a defensively sound evening.
Henderson delivers a captains performance on the big stage
Jordan Henderson has to be one of the most divisive figures within the current Liverpool side, dividing fans into two factions – one tending to over-praise his performances and the other dismissing his efforts in order to maintain the agenda that he is simply not good enough for Klopp’s team. Yet, on a night when it truly mattered, the former-Sunderland man stood up and was counted, delivering a real captain’s performance.
The first-half was untidy at times, typified by both full-backs squandering possession but Henderson was composed throughout, producing two pinpoint long-balls to set his team on the attack, the first of which almost culminated in a goal for Mohamed Salah. Snapping into tackles to rally the troops, instigating a faster tempo when required and covering the ground to mop up when Bayern threatened, it was a big performance from a man many continue to label as surplus to requirements. There’s a reason why Klopp continues to entrust his captain – this showed why.
Naby Keita continues to take positive steps
Slowly but surely, Keita is beginning to work into his groove, picking up confidence along the way to make a strong argument to start in the huge game against Manchester United at the weekend. Where he previously would’ve shied away from possession, here he was visibly offering for it, taking the ball on and dribbling with a real verve. Surging forward with the kind of drive Oxlade-Chamberlain offered against Man City last season, Keita was directly involved in exactly half of Liverpool’s shots so far in the first-half (3/6).
As the confidence builds and the form picks up, all that remains is finding a quality final ball to carve out chances for the front-three. At present, positive spells are stifled by nearly moments but on his current trajectory, it would appear a case of when, not if, Keita hits top gear.