LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom, Feb 20 – Liverpool’s undermanned defence held out for a precious clean sheet but Bayern Munich will also be confident of progress to 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 make-shift central defence with Brazilian midfielder Fabinho moved back to partner 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.
However, 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 they got Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Mane 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.
However, the German champions have made the last eight of the Champions League for each of 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 due to their early exit in 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’ time if they are to reach the last eight.