Liverpool’s much-anticipated Champions League knockout tie with Bayern Munich failed to live up to expectations and a goalless draw leaves Jurgen Klopp’s side with plenty to do in Germany next month.
Klopp again found his former Bundesliga rivals a tough nut to crack in their last-16, first leg encounter which had little in the way of goalmouth action and much more in the way of uncharacteristic errors.
These clubs may have 10 European Cups between them but there was little to show for it in terms of quality, with just three combined shots on target in 90 minutes, which promised so much but delivered so little.
Liverpool, with Virgil Van Dijk suspended and Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez both injured, started with their fourth-choice centre-back in Joel Matip and midfielder Fabinho playing alongside him.
It was not the best scenario to be facing the Champions League’s leading scorer Robert Lewandowski but a clean sheet was one positive to come from the night.
Alisson Becker and Manuel Neuer, both goalkeepers reknowned for being comfortable on the ball, made errors which could – on another night – have led to goals.
Liverpool’s vaunted 44-goal front line also struggled to find their target with Sadio Mane screwing a shot on the turn with his weaker foot past the far post and Mohamed Salah criminally failing to even trouble Neuer with a free header having diverted an earlier volley straight at the goalkeeper.
The closest either side came to scoring was when Matip diverted Serge Gnabry’s cross into the chest of Alisson from point-blank range with the Brazilian knowing little about it.
Makeshift centre-back Fabinho continued to grow into the role he had only previously performed against Brighton’s Glenn Murray last month while in front of him Jordan Henderson was putting in a captain’s performance.
Offensively his passing exposed the Bayern backline while his willingness to track back meant he was a key defensive player also.
Klopp had written in his programme notes that anyone who had written off Bayern, second in Bundesliga just three points behind his former club Borussia Dortmund, this season risked looking silly.
While they are not a vintage side, missing Arjen Robben with Franck Ribery only on the bench, they have vast experience at this level, reaching at least the semi-final six times in the last seven years – winning once – with the one ‘failure’ being only the last eight in 2017.
It is why they still present such an obstacle in this competition and Gnabry’s shot just over the crossbar early in the second half proved that.
However, the hosts began to dominate midfield possession, led once again by the excellent Henderson, without carving out a real chance against a defence which looked shambolic against Augsburg on Friday.
Mane’s stooping header five minutes from time was the closest they came but Neuer handled it comfortably.
That may be something of a concern for Klopp heading into Sunday’s match at resurgent arch-rivals Manchester United, a game which could take them back to the top of the Premier League.
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