LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom, Feb 20 – Liverpool were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw against Bayern Munich in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Tuesday.
Here are three things we learned from a hard-fought Anfield stalemate:
Klopp frustrated by Bayern again
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was back in conflict with Bayern after spending seven years jousting with the German giants when he in charge at Borussia Dortmund.
Klopp twice knocked them off their perch to win the Bundesliga, but Bayern handed the German one of the most painful defeats of his career when they beat Dortmund in the last seconds of the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley.
It is a loss that still gnaws at Klopp, who this week confirmed he almost became Bayern manager in 2008 before joining Dortmund a year later.
Bayern instead appointed Jurgen Klinsmann and Klopp would dearly love to exact a measure of revenge for both that snub and the Champions League final agony.
However, after Liverpool were stifled by Bayern’s defensive masterclass, Klopp will head home to Germany for next month’s second leg facing a tough task to get the upper hand at last.
Fabinho fills in nicely
With Virgil van Dijk suspended and Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren both injured, Klopp was forced to play Brazilian midfielder Fabinho out of position at centre-back alongside Joel Matip.
Fabinho had filled in as a makeshift defender against Wolves and Brighton earlier this season, but neither of those teams had a forward of Robert Lewandowski’s class.
Top-scorer in the Champions League this season with eight goals, Bayern star Lewandowski was looking to net for a fifth consecutive game in the competition.
But, with Fabinho in fine form, Lewandowski barely had a sniff all night.
His one moment of genuine menace ended with Fabinho producing a timely block to scramble the ball to safety as the Poland striker prepared to pull the trigger.
It helped that Klopp knew all about Lewandowski and how to subdue him after the pair worked together so successfully at Dortmund.
Lewandowski netted 16 Champions League goals for Dortmund under Klopp and had scored another 36 in the tournament since joining Bayern.
But Fabinho and Matip ensured Lewandowski wasn’t able to extend that impressive run as Liverpool’s unbeaten home record in European matches reached 20 matches.
Bayern restore German pride
With three English clubs pitted against German opposition in the last 16, two of football’s most historic countries are engaged in a battle for national pride and European progress.
Tottenham drew first blood for England with a 3-0 rout of Borussia Dortmund at Wembley last week, while Manchester City travel to Schalke on Wednesday.
Liverpool were favourites to make it at least two first-leg victories for the Premier League.
But, for all the talk of Bayern being a fading force after they surrendered top spot in the Bundesliga for much of this season, their fine recent European record stood them in good stead on a typically raucous night at Anfield.
Having reached at least the semi-finals of the Champions League in six of the last seven seasons, Bayern were never likely to be rattled by Liverpool or their vociferous fans.
Setting out with a cautious game plan, Bayern, the last German club to win the tournament in 2013, didn’t have a shot on target for over 80 minutes.
But crucially they managed to subdue Liverpool’s usually lethal forward line, keeping the Bundesliga in with a chance of having at least one team in the quarter-finals.