Stalemate leaves Liverpool and Bayern plenty to play for

Mane wasted hosts’ best chance when the Senegalese forward fired wide during an open first half

Liverpool's Sadio Mane attempts an overhead kick, during the Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match between Liverpool and Bayern Munich,  at Anfield, in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Liverpool’s undermanned defence held out for a precious clean sheet but Bayern Munich will also be confident of a spot in the Champions League quarter-finals after a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their last 16 tie at Anfield on Tuesday.

Sadio Mane wasted the best chance for the hosts when the Senegalese forward fired wide during an open first 45 minutes, but a cagey second half left it all to be decided when the sides meet again in Munich on March 13.

Without the talismanic presence of Virgil van Dijk through suspension and the injured Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren, Liverpool were forced to name a makeshift central defence with Brazilian midfielder Fabinho moved back to assist Joel Matip.

That unfamiliarity showed in the early stages as the hosts started nervously at the back.

Matip breathed a sigh of relief when he turned Serge Gnabry’s driven cross towards his own goal only for the ball to bounce to safety off Alisson Becker’s chest.

But the Brazilian goalkeeper played his side into trouble moments later to put pressure on Matip and when he was dispossessed by Robert Lewandowski, Kingsley Coman fired into the side-netting.

Liverpool were also posing plenty of problems at the other end when Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Mane moved into dangerous areas.

Salah headed wide at the back post from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s perfectly measured cross.

Mane then passed up the best chance for either side as he shot wide on the turn after Naby Keita’s initial effort was blocked by the arm of Niklas Suele.

Matip could not force home Firmino’s unselfish cross with the chance to open the scoring at the right end and Mane sent a spectacular overhead kick effort high and wide as the Premier League side ended the half on top.

Bayern may not have hit the heights of previous years in the Bundesliga this season as they trail Borussia Dortmund by three points in their quest to land a seventh straight league title.

But the German champs have made the last eight of the Champions League for the past seven seasons and had the experience to hold out for what they clearly saw as a valuable draw as they wound the clock down in the final stages.

Liverpool had 10 days off to prepare for Bayern’s visit because of their early exit from the FA Cup and looked the fresher side as they pressed for a winner.

Matip wasted another good chance by firing well off target from the edge of the area before Manuel Neuer produced his best save of the night to turn Mane’s header behind five minutes from time.

Jurgen Klopp’s men have lost all of their last five Champions League games away from Anfield, including last season’s final.

The return of Van Dijk will aid their chances, but that rot will need to stop in Munich in three weeks if they are to reach the last eight.