Bayern 1:3 Liverpool: Mané on Fire
Liverpool have progressed to the last 8 of the Champions League in some fashion. Eyes have been on this team from the very beginning. From last year’s finalists to the group of death to the tie of the round of 16. Liverpool are European royalty and not just because of history. They are in the very highest bracket of world football and feared by all. Bayern Munich have not failed to reach the quarter finals since 2011, advancing from the round of 16, 7 times in a row. The Allianz is a fortress and had seen only 2 Bayern losses in Europe since 2014. All until the Reds came and conquered.
Liverpool were incredible, unnerved and unmoved. Jurgen Klopp gave us our best European away performance of his tenure. Despite calls to revert to last year’s heavy metal football, Klopp saw us home with a lesson in controlled dominance.
Bayern and their hostile crowd were kept at arm’s length through sheer quality and fear. In the second half Liverpool were utterly flawless in their strategy. They were patient and composed in possession and clinical in the perfect areas at the right times.
Bayern had to attack us to be in with a chance of advancing yet they waited. Kovac was that fearful of Liverpool, he did not want to over commit too early and risk conceding the second. This brings us back to the problem of 0-0 for the away side in the first leg. Our goals mean more than theirs.
Despite Bayern’s conservatism, Liverpool find a way to score. When the record-breaking front three isn’t enough, we have a 6’4 defender who’s scored 3 in his last 4 to call on and an excellent set-piece provider in Milner.
Bayern’s hope is gone. Liverpool’s quality shown through that half ensured that one goal would sap all belief from the world-renowned stars of Bayern Munich. In fact, for the next 10 minutes after the goal, they were even more hesitant to commit players forward as they were seemingly fearful of Liverpool running riot. The Reds are a force again. Klopp has brought us back to the very top.
Liverpool’s man of the match could be anyone. Everyone will have a different opinion, given the brilliance and unity of the team performance. Sadio Mané, however, has to get phenomenal acclaim for his incredible upturn in form. He would easily get into any team in the world right now.
He has now surpassed Steven Gerrard (remember him) as our leading scorer of Champions League/European Cup away goals with 7. He has also continued his impressive run of scoring in every round of the competition since the very start of last season.
The touch, turn and finish for his first could be talked about forever. One of the greatest and most decorated goalkeepers in history was no match for Sadio’s trickery. Neuer did not anticipate Mané’s touch to be so perfect as he looked to pounce on any loose ball quickly. But there was still so much left to the do. The feint to send him the opposite way, then the finish which had to be dinked so accurately in the bottom corner to prevent the onrushing defenders from intercepting. Pure class.
Mané played like a man full of confidence. He has had many critics before who have said he misses too many clear opportunities but his clinical nature on Wednesday night is what made the difference. With 9 of his 13 Champions League goals coming in the knockout stages, he shows up when we need him most and his performance at the Allianz only adds to that fact.
His second goal, with Salah again turning provider is an example of his clever positioning and movement as well as the chemistry between him and Salah. Firmino’s reaction from the bench was fantastic to watch also, highlighting how unselfish the three of them are. They all have the bigger picture in mind and are willing to do whatever it takes to bring this club and it’s fanbase the biggest of riches.
With Fulham next, there is a great opportunity for Mané to continue the dazzling form which has seen him score 10 in his last 10 for the Reds. The momentum gained from the result and Bayern is huge. As well as sending a statement to teams all around Europe, it also acts as an internal reminder to us and the players of how good we are and how good we can be.
A win at Fulham and it’s a proper run. All talk of bottling will have well and truly faded, if it hasn’t already. Then we can soar into the final few games, in both competitions. The more we win, the easier it gets and the quieter those get who are willing us to fail.
Fulham is the target. Fulham is the season in one game. Victory puts us top while City fight on another front. Victory in Fulham puts the pressure back on them.
Until then, Liverpool have just knocked out Bayern Munich in the Champions League and advanced into the quarter final.
Breathe it in.
There’s more to come.