Monday 16 September 2019

John Aldridge: 'Outcome's in the balance but Reds can get vital away goal'

DRAWING A BLANK: (l-r) Liverpool’s Naby Keita and Sadio Mane. Photo: PA
DRAWING A BLANK: (l-r) Liverpool’s Naby Keita and Sadio Mane. Photo: PA

Liverpool had their chances to open up a first leg lead in their Champions League last-16 tie against Bayern Munich last night, but Jurgen Klopp's side should not despair after a tense 0-0 draw at Anfield.

This Liverpool side has built a reputation for scoring goals aplenty, but this was a night when the ball wouldn't fall for them in the box and when they had a big chance to win it late on, it fell to the wrong man in Fabinho.

Liverpool got into some great positions, but their final ball was lacking and it means they will have plenty of work to go when they go to Munich three weeks from now.

However, I would back Liverpool to score at least one goal in the return match if they bring their shooting boots with them.

Liverpool are capable of scoring anywhere and I would be amazed if they go 180 minutes without scoring, so the away goal rule could end up being crucial in this tie.

A 1-1 draw in Munich? It is a result I can see coming to pass in the second leg and that would be enough to send Liverpool through.

What we saw at Anfield last night was a high-quality game between two top sides and you could see the attacking threat Bayern possessed when they got into decent positions.

To their credit, Liverpool's defensive line held firm in the absence of Virgil van Dijk, with Joel Matip and Fabinho superb at the heart of the defence.

Fabinho turned in a great performance and bailed Liverpool out on a few occasions in the second-half with his reading of the game and he should now be viewed as one of the most improved players over the course of this season.

Jurgen Klopp seemed reluctant to play him following his move from Monaco last summer, but his versatility has allowed him to become a key man and we are also seeing better performances from Naby Keita.

Like Fabinho, he took longer than we would have wanted to come to the fore after his move to Liverpool, but he is starting to show his abilities now, even though he needs to add assists and goals to his repertoire.

Jordan Henderson may have been the pick with his performance in midfield and all that was lacking was a cutting edge, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino not at their best.

Salah had a really quiet game. He is the kind of player who explodes into life and produces a moment of magic that cracks a game open, but it just didn't happen for him.

Mane will also have been disappointed to miss a big chances in the first-half and on recent form, he is the player Liverpool could have wanted to get into goal-scoring positions, but it didn't happen for him at the crucial moments.

Firmino did well when you consider he was a big doubt as he is suffering with a virus, but it was a case of near misses for both sides, with the second leg in Munich finely balanced.

Liverpool didn't test their 'keeper Manuel Neuer enough and while Bayern defended well, you would have expected Salah, Mane and Firmino to produced more of an attacking threat.

It's all to play for in Germany on March 13 and anyone who suggested this Bayern Munich side are there for the taking and would be comfortable opponents for Liverpool to beat were reminded that last season's Champions League semi-finalists will be a very tough team to oust from this competition.

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