Liverpool romped to a 3-1 win at the Allianz Arena to secure their place in the Champions League quarter-final stages, the fourth English club to achieve such a feat.
Having struggled to recreate the kind of form witnessed in Europe last season, this was a return to the best of the best, with Jurgen Klopp’s side fending off another European heavyweight with relative ease. Cunning on the counter-attack and defensively solid, there were few holes to a performance that will send a statement and potentially kick-start the side ahead of a pivotal run-in.
Here are the observations from the match.
A mature away performance
This was a performance of maturity and discipline from a Liverpool side with a dismal record on the road in Europe this season. Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip, who improved greatly after an unfortunate own-goal levelled the score for Bayern, did brilliantly to stifle the Germans. Blessed with such attacking riches, there were warning signs that the home side would step it up a gear in the second half, but a determined Reds defence kept the back door emphatically locked. Indeed, Bayern had no shots on Alisson’s goal in the second half, struggling to break down a rigid and well-drilled unit.
For all the talk about how poor Bayern was, Liverpool deserves immense credit for the way in which they went about their task., making the European heavyweights look futile all night long.
Sadio Mané, Liverpool’s main man
Talk about worth the wait.
An end-to-end, strategic start to the game kept viewers waiting 25 minutes for the breakthrough in Munich, but boy was it worth it. Van Dijk’s trademark long-ball was met by an impeccable touch from Sadio Mané, who stopped it dead in its tracks before spinning Manuel Neuer and chipping his shot between the two Bayern defenders and into the far corner. This really was a goal of the highest order.
A late second goal would complete yet another brace for the Senegal international, who has become the lynchpin of Liverpool’s attack since the turn of the year. Standing up and guiding the way, his tally of 19 goals is now just one behind Mohamed Salah, with his influence and importance to Klopp’s side extreme. Should Liverpool win silverware this season, it’ll be in no small part down to his impeccable form.
Virgil van Dijk delivers at both ends of the field
This was, in many ways, the perfect summation of Virgil van Dijk’s Liverpool career. The Dutchman has achieved a plethora of plaudits since his £75m move, helping to revolutionise a defence previously unable to provide the foundations for a title challenge. Brilliant in stifling Bayern on the attack, clearing the danger and communicating across the back boy, this was no different. What’s more, Van Dijk displayed that he is not just a world-class defender but a world-class creator and a fitting threat from set pieces, providing a pinpoint long-ball for Mané’s opener before climbing above everyone to power home and give Liverpool their crucial cushion.
Mohamed Salah with another telling contribution
In the aftermath of the Burnley win, Klopp was quick to heap praise on Mohamed Salah who, despite not featuring on the scoreline, was instrumental in gaining another crucial three points in the title bid. It was a familiar story at the Allianz Arena too, with the Egyptian linking play well and causing plenty of problems down the flank. Albeit receiving criticism for not passing to Sadio Mané when the duo went through on goal, last season’s PFA Player of the Year stepped up with another telling contribution to help confirm Liverpool’s progression to the quarter-final.
A sumptuous outside of the foot cross was perfectly placed between the two Bayern defenders, met by the head of the onrushing Mané to prevent any late drama. While the goals continue to escape him, there can be little doubt of the impact Salah is having on the pitch.
One blip on an otherwise faultless night
It was almost a perfect night, but for a late yellow card for Andy Robertson, which sees the Scottish international miss the first-leg of the quarter-final. It will come as a bitter blow to Klopp, with Robertson a pivotal member of the squad, carrying a punch at both ends of the field. Adding width to the attack alongside incisive crosses, the lack of depth at left-back leaves the manager with somewhat of a headache for the next game.
Alberto Moreno is the only natural left-back available, however, his susceptibility to be caught on in his own third could persuade Klopp to shift Milner to left-back. While the replacement for Robertson is up for debate, everyone knows what a blow this will be in the quarter-final. His despairing face at the full-time whistle said it all.