Wednesday 17 July 2019

We made our life difficult, admits Klopp after night of frustration

Liverpool 0 Bayern Munich 0

Under pressure from Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich, Mo Salah is off target with a first-half
chance at Anfield last night. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Under pressure from Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich, Mo Salah is off target with a first-half chance at Anfield last night. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Chris Bascombe

Just as when these sides met 38 years ago, Liverpool will have to earn a famous result in Munich to retain their Champions League dream.

Bayern replicated the first-leg goalless draw from the German champions' last visit to Anfield in 1981, although the modern incarnation will know better than to take victory for granted.

They have waited a long time for their chance to avenge their eventual exit and Jurgen Klopp may take comfort in historic omens. Liverpool went on to lift the trophy.

This game did not live up to its billing. It was messy and unfulfilling, the Italian referee far too prominent to facilitate a reconstruction of the Dortmund v Bayern epics Klopp was accustomed to in his Bundesliga years.

By the end, both seemed reasonably content with the draw, Liverpool consoled by the clean sheet - the absence of an away goal potentially critical. With Virgil van Dijk's presence missed, this may yet represent a missed opportunity for Bayern coach Niko Kovac.

"We made life difficult with the last pass," said Klopp afterwards. "About 10 or 12 times a promising situation and then not quite. We can play better. We should play better.

Sadio Mane attempts an over-head kick during last night’s first leg against Bayern Munich. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Sadio Mane attempts an over-head kick during last night’s first leg against Bayern Munich. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

"In the first half we had the bigger chances. I can't remember any chances for either side in the second half. It wasn't a Champions League night from that point of view. From a result point of view, it's OK. It's not a dream result but it's a good one.

Moon

"It was a clean sheet without the big man (Van Dijk). A lot of people wouldn't have expected that. The defending was good. A lot of things were really good. I'm not over the moon but I'm completely OK with the game."

Despite his protestations before the game, it is hard to accept there was not extra meaning in the fixture for Klopp. The foes were too familiar, in the case of former Borussia Dortmund allies Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski, the friendships too secure.

Liverpool's Andy Robertson and Naby Keita have words during the match. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
Liverpool's Andy Robertson and Naby Keita have words during the match. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

There was time in his Liverpool career that Klopp would have been less enthusiastic about facing Bayern - particularly in those early months when he was still forming his team and relying on the emotion of European nights as much as technical excellence.

Even without the suspended Van Dijk, Klopp sounded as though he was relishing this opportunity to show compatriots the fruits of his labour - his message of Liverpool being competitors again a warning, not an idle boast. But Klopp was wise to caution against suggestions Bayern are a fading force.

They were too canny, too experienced to fall into the traps set by those who have recently arrived here with backs stiffened, ridiculing the power of the stadium, only to depart with pride and ambitions destroyed.

Bayern sought to sedate with compliments. For the first time, Klopp had no need for a rally cry, Bayern's players lining up to pay tribute to the power of the Kop. All part of the plan.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp watches on during a frustrating draw at Anfield. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp watches on during a frustrating draw at Anfield. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Bob Paisley, the manger who guided Liverpool to a triumph when these teams last met in the competition in 1981, used to call it "giving the opposition a bit of toffee". Bayern were here for the result, not a stadium tour.

Little wonder they started with the nous of a side that has made its home in the latter stages of this competition, unflustered by the emotional welcome. They should have scored after 13 minutes, although in keeping with the start it would have owed as much to defensive vulnerability, Joel Matip's attempted clearance fortunate to bounce off Alisson's shin.

Serge Gnabry, who provided the dribble and cross in the build-up, was causing Andy Robertson as much concern as he has known since arriving at Liverpool. The absence of Van Dijk was immediately disconcerting. There was palpable unease as Matip exchanged passes with stand-in partner Fabinho, and goalkeeper Alisson's hesitancy in possession offering too much encouragement to Bayern's prowling attackers.

This proved a contagion, as the visitors looked equally vulnerable without the injured Jerome Boateng alongside Hummels. It seemed Manuel Neuer fancied a game of Russian roulette with Alisson, preferring the gambler's pass from goal-kicks, often pausing before clearing to a red shirt. The first half would end goalless without either defence looking on top.

Klopp could point to the better first-half opportunities, Mane snatching spectacularly with two close-range effort, the latter with an overambitious overhead kick. Those attempts summed up the opening of a game full of threat without end product.

Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski gives his shirt to fans at the end of the match. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski gives his shirt to fans at the end of the match. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

Kingsley Coman found the side-netting for Bayern, while Gnabry forced another save from Alisson. Robertson, usually so reliable in attacking positions, was overhitting his crosses.

Liverpool's increased tempo at the start of the second half should have led to a breakthrough after 54 minutes, Naby Keita twice failing to send the overlapping Robertson into a one-on-one with Neuer.

At the other end, Gnabry's thunderous strike from 25 yards was inches over the bar. With Neuer barely troubled, Klopp sent on Divock Origi for Roberto Firmino and James Milner replaced Keita. It had no impact. Bayern, whose defence was criticised ahead of the tie, looked more secure as the game progressed.

The first goal in this tie will utterly change its complexion. Liverpool knew they could ill afford to concede it here, so the peril now switches to Bayern. We will all reconvene and hope for better in three weeks. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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