Talking Points: Bayern Munich 1 Liverpool 3 (1-3 Agg)

Sadio Mane inspired Liverpool to a superb victory over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena to seal the Reds’ progression into the Champions League quarter-finals. Virgil Van Dijk also scored as Jürgen Klopp’s side produced another famous European night.

Sloppy first-half forgotten with perfect game management…

It was an encounter of huge importance for both sides, and as a result, nerves were always going to be apparent, even for the best of players. This was particularly clear amongst Liverpool for a fair chunk of the first-half, with Joel Matip and the fullbacks looking shaky while the midfield played sloppy pass after sloppy pass. The mistakes allowed Bayern to establish control of possession and tempo, and a belief that it was their night. But Mane’s exquisite first-half strike meant Liverpool were in the driving seat, and with the hosts surprisingly subdued at the start of the second half, the Reds took full advantage through Van Dijk’s header. From then on Klopp’s players saw out the match with efficiency and intelligence – Bayern leaving acres of space which Liverpool were far too good to let go to waste. Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum were at the top of their game as the clocked ticked down, and soon enough the 4000-odd away supporters were celebrating victory. The only blemish was the stupid yellow card to Andy Robertson that means the fullback will miss the first leg of the quarters, but that aside, Liverpool showed real maturity to turn around a below-par first-half and emerge as comfortable winners.

Van Dijk embodies just how good this team is…

Is it possible to love Van Dijk even more? It speaks volume that the Dutchman, despite only featuring in one of the two legs, offered more of an attacking impact than Robert Lewandowski who was restricted to winning a free-kick here and there. Van Dijk was once again his imperious self, and was on-hand to thunder home James Milner’s corner and thus give his side a foot in the next round. This season Van Dijk has been comfortably the best defender in world football, and the level that he and his teammates are operating at reflects just what Klopp has built on Merseyside. Most of the Reds’ best XI are one of the top players on the planet in their respective position, and will only get better given the young age of the squad. Gone are the days of Fabio Borini and Stewart Downing. This is a Liverpool team bursting with ability, and with a handful of match-winners like Van Dijk ready to step-up to the plate.

It’s that Man(e) again…

Disgusting, simply disgusting. Mane went and pretty much ended Manuel Neuer’s whole career when he left the goalkeeper on his backside before chipping in a terrific solo effort and Liverpool’s opening goal. Everything about the goal – the touch, the vision, the execution – was all sublime and epitomised the ability of a footballer who is in the form of his life. After nodding in his second of the game, Mane took his tally to 10 goals in his last 10 outings. The forward is replicating the Mohamed Salah of last season in being the Reds’ attacking superstar, though that’s not to say Salah isn’t contributing as his assist for Mane’s second was equally as good. Mane seems to be right at home in the Champions League, having scored in every round of the competition last season, and is clearly a world-class attacker, if there was any doubt. He is a man for the big occasions, and long may it continue.

Fearless Liverpool ready to go all the way…on both fronts…

The draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals takes place on Friday, with Liverpool’s potential opponents being Porto, Ajax, Spurs, Manchester United, Man City, Juventus and Barcelona. While it is an open competition, it will be a difficult one to win. However, after knocking out a heavyweight such as Bayern, Klopp and his players will be ready for whatever is thrown at them. The nature of Wednesday’s win will also further increase confidence and momentum in the quest for the Premier League title, and with a couple of months of the campaign to go, there is still so much that could be achieved. Klopp rightly dismissed talk of favouring one of the competitions over the other, and fans will be desperate for at least one piece of silverware to be claimed come May.

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