LONDON – Bayern Munich needed all its Champions League experience to achieve a goalless draw against Liverpool at Anfield stadium in Liverpool on Tuesday, where both teams failed to score in their first leg of the last-16 matchup.
The two-legged playoffs in the round of 16 tied the English and Germans and leaves everything open for the second leg, albeit with an advantage for home side Bayern, when they reconvene in Munich’s Allianz Arena on March 13.
Juergen Klopp didn’t lose at home and Niko Kovac managed not to go down against the stronger team of the day in Anfield. In the end, everyone was more or less happy.
Each arrived with their own doubts, the local ones, scarce of centers, with the casualties of Virgil Van Dijk, by suspension, and of Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren, by injury, and the visitors by the hegemony yielded in Germany.
Bayern coach Kovac warned in his pre-match interview that he was most anxious to avoid a ‘Red’ roll in the first twenty minutes and his team responded by starting to set the pace of the match.
The Germans tempered the temperature of the match but neither side did much to create any chances, the game was far removed from the madness experienced here in other playoffs, especially nothing like the riveting 3-0 when Liverpool beat Manchester City here last season.
But Anfield was a caldera about to explode, a volcano that any movement, no matter how small, was going to erupt. And that butterfly flutter was Jordan Henderson’s deep pass to Salah but a poor touch scuppered the chances for a lead early in the 2nd half.
The Bavarians responded with a good move by Gnabry on the left flank and a cross that Joel Matip almost put in his own goal if it wasn’t for a well placed Alisson Becker.
Despite their problems with the ball, Liverpool began to take advantage of the ineffectiveness of the Bavarian attack and after a while they found themselves more in front of Manuel Neuer’s goal.
The clearest chance came from the boots of winger Sadio Mane, who came close with a shot on the turn, just a few meters from the goal. It hit Neuer and was deflected with the ankle. This tremendous disappointment was followed by a handful of half-chances, most of them from Mohamed Salah and Joel Matip.
Bayern will have to live without right-back Joshua Kimmich in the return leg, as he received a yellow card in the 28th minute after a foul on Sadio Mane.
Liverpool’s attack didn’t improve much in the second half and, although the Premier League team held the ball more, the fear of winning (and losing) gripped both teams. Neither decided well when they reached the last few yards and Klopp, with the entry of James Milner and Divock Origi made it clear that not conceding goals was also worthwhile.
In the return leg on 13 March, there can no longer be that fear of winning. Bayern and Liverpool, two teams condemned to score goals and punished with Tuesday’s 0-0 draw, will have no choice.