By Simon Evans
LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) – Bayern Munich showed all their Champions League experience and quality organisation as they held Liverpool to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their last 16 match at Anfield on Tuesday in a game of few chances and little drama.
But the result leaves it all to play for in the second leg in Munich on March 13 when the German side will be without defender Joshua Kimmich who will be suspended after picking up a yellow card.
Perhaps it was a case of both sides showing too much respect for the other — certainly both were wary of over-committing in attack — but for fans used to entertainment and drama on European nights at Anfield it was a let down.
“It is not the result or the game we dreamed of,” said Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp.
“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 is no accident that Bayern have reached the semi-finals of this competition in six of the last seven seasons and they showed their pragmatic calmness to subdue Liverpool’s normally lively front three.
“I can’t remember too many clubs who have avoided defeat and kept a clean sheet here,” said Bayern coach Niko Kovac.
“The fact that we managed to restrict them to very few chances shows that we played very well tactically as well as technically.”
Mohamed Salah, the man Liverpool look to for moments of inspiration, to create a goal out of nothing, had a night to forget with one of his poorest displays in this competition.
Liverpool simply could not find the fluency and rhythm that brings the best out of their forward line although they will be pleased, in the absence of their defensive rock Virgil van Dijk, to have kept out Bayern.
Key to that rearguard resilience was the performance from Brazilian midfielder Fabinho, who deputised well in the central-defensive role keeping Bayern’s scoring threat Robert Lewandowski quiet.
In midfield, Jordan Henderson delivered an excellent display, especially in the opening 45 minutes, when he broke up Bayern’s attempts to create and also contributed some drive to Liverpool’s forward thrusts.
There were few clear-cut chances in the game although Liverpool created several half-openings in the first period.
The first was one of the best they managed — Henderson found Salah, who had snuck in behind Niklas Sule, but the Egyptian’s toe-poke at full stretch was straight at Manuel Neuer.
At the other end, Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker had to be alert to keep out a mis-hit clearance from Joel Matip that hit him in the chest.
Kingsley Coman fired into the side-netting after a sloppy give away from Alisson but that was a rare sign of jitters from either defence.
Bayern were content to sit deep after the break and the closest Klopp’s side came in the second half was a diving header from Sadio Mane in the 86th minute which Neuer pushed around the post.
This was not a night that will go in the list of great European encounters at Anfield, a fact reflected in a rather flat atmosphere for much of the game, but Liverpool know they still have a chance to progress.
“You’re playing an experienced team. They’ve been here and done it for five or six years,” said left back Andy Robertson.
“We’ve kept a clean sheet, could’ve scored a couple of goals but the tie is well and truly alive. If we score there it’s crucial.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Christian Radnedge)