For all the high hopes and excellent form, FC Bayern München’s Champions League challenge ended in a whimper. Having fought back after yet another defensive lapse, Niko Kovač’s men faded completely in a dismal second half against the Premier League outfit.
The defeat at the Allianz Arena sees the Bavarians fail to make the last eight for the first time since 2011. In the final analysis, the problem was not the result, but the performance.
Enforced changes, a cagey start
The Bayern coach made two changes to the starting eleven that had walloped VfL Wolfsburg at the weekend. Hit with a one-match ban after his yellow card in the first leg, Joshua Kimmich was replaced by Rafinha at left-back. Niklas Süle came in for Jérôme Boateng in the middle of the rejigged back four, while the fit-again David Alaba also returned.
With Thomas Müller also excluded after his red card against Ajax in the group phase, Franck Ribéry started out on the left with the versatile Serge Gnabry switching out to the right flank.
The hosts made a solid start, but did not even try to impose themselves on their opponents. The verge and vigour of recent weeks was noticeably absent, and the team looked prepared to bide their time instead. The plan never really worked, and bar a ten-minute spell before half time, the stodgy start set the tone for the remainder of the match.
Not surprisingly, chances were hard to come by. The best effort was a long-range shot from Thiago in the ninth minute, which sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.
Jürgen Klopp’s men suffered a major blow when captain Jordan Henderson had to depart in the 13th minute, but Bayern’s approach allowed their opponents to realign and regroup. There were few opportunities, but Bayern fans would have been mildly satisfied with the opening 25 minutes.
Then, it came. That all too familiar moment when the opposition were gifted a goal. This has become something of a theme this season, and this time it was ‘keeper Manuel Neuer at fault.
A well-directed long ball from Virgil van Dijk was chased down by Sadio Mané, who found himself up against Rafinha. As the Senegalese international looked to shift past the Brazilian, Neuer charged out of his goal to execute the clearance himself. There were no sweeper-keeper heroics, as Neuer made a complete mess of the challenge.
With the Bayern defence struggling and Neuer stranded at the edge of the box, Mané looped the ball into the net to score a priceless away goal. Bayern now needed two goals of their own at the very least. The worst thing was that if Neuer had stayed on his line, there would have been nowhere for Mané to go but backwards.
Best spell of the match
The shock stung the hosts into action, and they produced their best spell of the match.
Knowing that they had to chase the game, Bayern upped the ante, pushing forward with greater urgency. After being isolated for the opening half hour, Robert Lewandowski finally got some decent touches, and the Liverpool defence started to creak and wobble.
Bayern started to win the fifty-fifty challenges, chased hard, and the visitors were unable to get out of their own half. Six minutes before the break, there was a sense of hope in the damp Munich air. Gnabry surged down the right, and sent a low cross-cum-shot towards the Liverpool goal.
Lewandowski was poised to finish at the far post, but centre-back Joël Matip beat him to it, jabbing the ball past ‘keeper Alisson Becker and into his own net. Die Roten still needed another goal, but for a short while it looked as though they could pull it off.
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) March 13, 2019
Liverpool take control
Sadly, the second half showing did not pickup where it had left off before the break. At times, it was like watching eleven zombies on the pitch, all playing their part in a badly-written B-movie. There was no sense of urgency, and none of that familiar fighting spirit. Oh to have had a Kimmich or Müller on the pitch to stir things up.
Lewandowski was a whisker away from meeting a low Gnabry cross on the hour mark, but that was as good as it got for Die Roten. The coach sent on Kingsley Coman for the disappointing Ribéry, but it made little difference.
If Bayern were lumbering and short of ideas, Liverpool were clinical. When the excellent van Dijk beat Mats Hummels and Javi Martínez to meet a James Milner corner in the 69th minute, the men in red were left with a mountain to climb. They never even made it to the path.
Mohamed Salah almost wrapped it up for the English Reds with fifteen minutes left, but just nine minutes later the game was put beyond all doubt. As the Bayern defence was left treading water, Mané met Mohamed Salah’s well-directed cross to score his second.
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) March 13, 2019
Bayern huffed and puffed as they chased the impossible, but had no answers. During the entire 90 minutes, Alisson did not have one single shot to save. For a team that had banged in close to a dozen goals in their last two outings, the output was truly disappointing. It was as if the very soul of the team had been bottled and left behind in the team bus.
So ends another Champions League odyssey. It was fun while it lasted, but there are still two trophies to win. Mia san mia.
FC Bayern München – Liverpool 1:3 (1:1)
Matip og 39. / Mané 26., 84., van Dijk 69.
FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Rafinha, Süle, Hummels, Alaba – Martínez (72. Goretzka), Thiago – Gnabry, James (79. Renato Sanches), Ribéry (61. Coman) – Lewandowski
Liverpool: Alisson – Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson – Henderson (c) (13. Fabinho) – Wijnaldum, Milner (87. Lallana) – Mané, Roberto Firmino (83. Origi), Salah
Referee: Daniele Orsato (Italy)
Yellow Cards: Thiago 65. / Fabinho 43., Matip 62., Robertson 90.+1.
Red Cards: – / –
Shots: 7 / 10
Passes: 570 / 409
Completed Passes: 468 / 302
Pass Success: 82% / 74%
Possession: 58% / 42%
Fouls: 7 / 14
Offsides: 5 / 2
Corners: 2 / 7