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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

Georginio Wijnaldum: Draw 'a good result for both' after Bayern Munich put up the barricades at Liverpool

Goalless draw at Anfield in the Uefa Champions League last-26, first leg left the hosts frustrated and their German visitors celebrating

Mohamed Salah and his Liverpool teammates couldn't find a way past Bayern Munich at Anfield. AP Photo
Mohamed Salah and his Liverpool teammates couldn't find a way past Bayern Munich at Anfield. AP Photo

In his rigorous preparation, Jurgen Klopp had watched Bayern Munich seven times, but he had never seen this. “The full-backs stayed in their own half protecting,” he noted. Joshua Kimmich leads the Bundesliga for assists, but he was rarely seen in the final third in a stalemate as Bayern did not draw a save from Alisson.

Bayern exited Anfield congratulating themselves on their defensive resolve, Liverpool with evidence that much of Europe is scarred by the way they cut a swathe through the Champions League en route to last season’s finals.

In the previous knockout game at Anfield, Liverpool scored five times in 34 minutes against Roma. There was no repeat in a match of just two shots on target.

Liverpool’s reputation precedes them; a side with 34 goals at this stage of last season’s competition have just nine now. It reflects their lesser fluency, but also the more cautious tactics adopted against them.

Bayern felt the wider world deemed them outsiders and arrived wary and worried, keeping men behind the ball. “They know we are good on the counter-attack,” Liverpool’s Gini Wijnaldum said.

Mats Hummels concurred, a World Cup winner savouring a damage-limitation job. “We were able to restrain Liverpool’s pace,” the Bayern centre-back said. “We wanted to stop the opponent from breaking free on a counter with their three pacey attackers. We did a good job. Our back four was focused on defence. The result is satisfying. We are now maybe in a better position than most expected.”

Wijnaldum denoted a lack of ambition in a side who had scored 20 goals in their previous seven games. “A lot of teams when they come to Anfield and they play a draw they think it is a good result,” the Dutchman said. “I think it is a good result for both. The only thing is if we go there and score a goal they have to score two.”

The alternative approach would have been for Bayern to take the view that Tuesday represented their best chance to breach Liverpool’s defence. Lacking the banned colossus Virgil van Dijk, Klopp paired his fourth- and fifth-choice centre-backs, Joel Matip and midfielder Fabinho. Matip came close to an own goal but Fabinho was outstanding. After a slow start to life at Anfield, the Brazilian is passing ever more tests.

“Both of them, Fabinho and Matip did a real good job stopping [Robert] Lewandowski, still one of the best strikers in the world,” said Wijnaldum. “Next time, we have Virgil back.”

Next time, too, Bayern are without Kimmich, cautioned at Anfield, and Thomas Muller, still suspended.

But the scenario has changed for Liverpool. Last season, first-leg ties brought them sizeable leads – five goals against Porto, three each against Manchester City and Roma – and this is more evenly poised. “Still 50-50,” Hummels said. “You’ll see a more attacking side [in the Allianz Arena].”

Liverpool should see more attacking opponents on Sunday. After Bayern come Manchester United. “Cool,” enthused Klopp.

Liverpool brought the curtain down on Jose Mourinho’s reign, taking 36 shots in December’s 3-1 win. It remains United’s last defeat to domestic opponents. They look a team transformed under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

“Since the new manager came in, there is a new flow, they played good games and have won a lot and that is building confidence,” added Wijnaldum. Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford top United’s list of in-form players.

“You look at their teamsheet and it's full of stars. They came to the party and they have a fantastic team,” said Liverpool left-back Andrew Robertson. “We know what we're coming up against and we need to stop their danger men.” That, at least, should not finish 0-0.

Updated: February 21, 2019 08:52 AM

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