Liverpool defence shuts out Bayern Munich even without Virgil van Dijk
Liverpool now travel to Manchester United for Super Sunday
Last Updated: 20/02/19 11:03am
Having lost the previous two matches Virgil van Dijk had missed this season, Liverpool must have been fearing for their defence up against Bayern Munich at Anfield. As it was, the makeshift centre-back partnership of Joel Matip and Fabinho stood strong.
The problem was the Reds could not find the breakthrough at the other end and had to settle for a goalless draw.
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Hopes will still be high Liverpool can go to Munich next month and get the result they need to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals. In the meantime, attention will shift back to the Premier League and the small matter of a showdown with great rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday. Confidence should be undiminished after this effort.
Fabinho impresses at the back
Fabinho, in particular, will have known that plenty of eyes were on him. Filling in for Van Dijk must be close to the impossible job right now but Jurgen Klopp could hardly have asked for more from the Brazilian. Not only did he keep out Robert Lewandowski but the Bayern striker barely fashioned an opening all evening. Fabinho looked at ease in the role.
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The protection from midfield was good but even when stretched, he was up to the challenge. Midway through the second half, Bayern's tricky winger Kingsley Coman had the opportunity to run at Fabinho but the Liverpool man put in a perfect tackle. Klopp will not want to be without Van Dijk again this season but this showed if that happens it need not prove costly.
Henderson shines in the middle
Ahead of Fabinho, the performance of captain Jordan Henderson in midfield deserves praise. The England international is often criticised for his unimaginative distribution but here he produced the pass of the night - expertly drilling the ball between the Bayern defence only to see Mohamed Salah fail to get sufficient purchase on the volley to beat Manuel Neuer.
Henderson finished the first half having made more tackles and more passes in the opposition half than anyone. Indeed, in a game where those around him were loose in their use of the ball he was the only player on the pitch who did not lose possession more times than he won it in that opening 45 minutes. The skipper brought a bit of control and it was a welcome reminder of his importance.
European away form to be tested
In attack, however, Liverpool were wasteful and will need to be much better in Bavaria if they are to eliminate the Bundesliga champions. The away form has been a major concern in Europe this season having lost all three of their Champions League group games on their travels, including the 2-0 defeat to Red Star Belgrade. Liverpool have to change that in the second leg.
The advantage is their opponents need to score too and that could open up the space for Salah and the rest to exploit. Bayern have conceded in 10 their 13 home fixtures so far this season so there is hope. But for now, it is what Liverpool do in their next away game at Old Trafford that will be at the forefront of fans' minds now this one is out of the way.