LIVERPOOL, England — There are times when people get carried away with the emotion of a European night at Anfield. The noise, the colour, the fear that makes world-class opposition players freeze in their tracks; all those elements helped drive Liverpool to the Champions League final last season, but Bayern Munich debunked some myths as they secured a 0-0 round-of-16 first-leg draw on Tuesday.
Bayern, five-time European champions just like Liverpool, turned up, shrugged their shoulders at what greeted them from the Kop and proceeded to give a masterclass in how to emerge from a tough away game unbeaten in this competition. Anfield did not spook the Bundesliga champions, and the more they brushed it off, the more it silenced the crowd and left Liverpool without the so-called 12th man that has pushed them to famous victories in the past.
“From a result point of view, it’s OK,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. “It’s not a dream result, but it’s a good one.
“Not a lot of things happened. We had our moments and in those moments you have to score.”
Liverpool created plenty of chances, but not enough to breach the Bayern goal, and this game was ultimately a world apart from those first-leg hammerings of Manchester City and Roma en route to last season’s final against Real Madrid in Kiev. City and Roma were blown away by a combination of the Anfield noise and the attacking quality of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, but none of them were able to leave a mark on the German champions.
Yet despite Liverpool’s failure to claim a first-leg victory, a 0-0 draw at home is no bad result. Bayern were unable to score themselves, so a goal for Liverpool in the Allianz Arena next month will give them the edge.
Virgil van Dijk, suspended for this game, will return to organise Klopp’s defence in Munich and restore a sense of calmness to the Liverpool back four. Dejan Lovren may also have beaten the hamstring injury that forced him to miss the game in time for the return fixture.
So there is plenty for Liverpool to be optimistic about. The only difference from last season is that the Anfield effect has not given them a platform to seal progression and, in a campaign in which they have lost all three away games in the group stage, their form on the road will be a cause of concern before they fly out to Bavaria.
And they are also coming up against a Bayern team that is accustomed to going deep in the competition.
Unlike City and Roma, who remain comparative novices in the Champions League, Bayern know how to get the job done, so much so that they have only failed on two occasions this decade to reach the semifinals. They have lost just two of their past 26 home games in the Champions League, winning 22, and they will face Liverpool with the self-confidence and belief that comes with being serial winners.
At Anfield, Niko Kovac’s team were content to play this game like an old-school European fixture from the 1980s: dropping deep, playing across the back and taking few risks in order to take the sting out of the home team. That approach worked, but Bayern will have to take the initiative at home and, as such, make it easier for Liverpool to make the breakthrough they could not find at Anfield.
In the Allianz, Mats Hummels and Niklas Sule will not be allowed to spend the majority of the game defending on the edge of their 18-yard box, while full-backs David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich will be expected to break forward more often to support Bayern’s attacking players. For a team that can be so devastating on the counterattack, the second leg would appear to be set up for Liverpool to claim the result required to take them into the quarterfinals.
But they are facing fellow European aristocrats in Bayern and it promises to be a much tougher challenge than any away trip they faced on the way to Kiev last season. It is still too close to call, but don’t be fooled into thinking that 0-0 at home is a bad result for Liverpool.
“We made life more difficult with the last pass, about 10 or 12 times in a promising position,” Klopp said. “We can play better. We should play better.
“In the first half we had the bigger chances, but I can’t remember any chances for either side in the second half, so it wasn’t a Champions League night from that point of view.”
It is likely to be a different story in the Allianz in three weeks’ time.