Liverpool cantered into the quarter-finals of the Champions League yet again after dispatching Bayern Munich 3-1 at the Allianz Arena in another historic night.
Sadio Mane scored twice on either side of a Virgil van Dijk header as Joel Matip’s equalising own goal early on proved to be a mere false dawn for the hosts.
The Bavarians, desperate to salvage the all-important win to progress, huffed and puffed from the word go but never once found their rhythm going forward and were also caught cold at the back on numerous occasions by Liverpool’s blistering attack.
The loss leaves Bayern with their earliest exit from the competition since 2011, whereas Jurgen Klopp and co. continue their march towards another final.
Here are the hits and flops from the match.
Hit: Sadio Mane
The Senegalese forward has been on a prolific run in the recent weeks and successfully carried his rip-roaring form in the match to strike twice – his third brace in the last four games.
Mane was unstoppable all night; a dagger through Bayern’s heart with his incredible burst of speed and relentless run-ins in the final third. He opened the scoring in the 26th minute with a delightful effort, before putting the tie to bed with a header just six minutes from time.
The 26-year old also completed all five of his dribble attempts whilst also laying a key pass. His link-up play with his attacking cohorts Salah and Firmino was brilliant too, opening up Bayern with quick passes.
Mane ended the game with just two shots on target but it’s a testament to his confidence and rich vein of form that he could convert both of them and helped Liverpool to another quarter-final berth.
Flop: Manuel Neuer
Regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in world football, Manuel Neuer has been a pillar in the Bayern Munich squad for almost eight years. For the German sweeper-keeper, in all honesty, has fallen off his glorious perch and committed a howler tonight to allow Liverpool to take the lead in the game.
Like he’s done several times in the past, Neuer came charging out of his lines to challenge Mane but his recklessness once again cost him. The Senegalese sensation easily beat him to find the back of the net and was absolutely grounded when the following two goals were headed. There was nothing he could do about it.
Plus, his ball distribution was poor too, averaging only 60% pass success and also appearing totally devoid of confidence.
Neuer’s highlights of the match are the three parried saves, including Wijnaldum’s long range that he could somehow palm down. Else, there’s little to write home about his performance.
Neuer hasn’t been the same since the unfortunate injury a couple of years ago that kept him out of action for almost a season, and that seems to have taken a wrecking ball to his talent and also fortitude.
Hit: Virgil Van Dijk
There is no stopping Liverpool’s stellar centre-back, Virgil van Dijk, who turned in another defensive masterclass to frustrate Bayern.
The Dutchman popped up in the right place at the right time to thwart Bayern’s forays with his crucial interventions. His vigilance and great vision saw him make five clearances and three interceptions, whilst also successfully completing a tackle. However, we also got to see his rare offensive side too.
He brilliantly picked out Mane for the opener by sending in a lofting cross on the left, before taking the initiative upon himself and heading home a corner in the second half. Besides, van Dijk also maintained an 85% pass success rate in the match and also laid a key pass.
The former Southampton defender didn’t put a wrong foot forward the whole game and was immensely effective for Liverpool at either end of the field.
Flop: Robert Lewandowski
Even by his own stratospheric standards, 29 goals in 34 appearances this season isn’t a poor return by any means. But the Pole has been found wanting in some important games and once again disappointed with a pulpy performance against the Merseysiders.
Lewandowski was starved of service for most of the match, rendering him ineffective and cut a lone figure up front. He barely made 29 touches on the ball – the least in the game and also strung together only 12 passes, also the lowest by any player on the field.
Having struck twice in the 6-0 demolition of Wolfsburg at the weekend, the Polish hitman would have hoped to pull a similar rabbit out of his hat today. But the dogged Liverpool backline ensured he’s been kept at an arm’s length.
Lewandowski was dispossessed twice and could also muster just a single effort on target. His prolific self that plundered eight goals in the group game looked to have completely deserted him over the two legs. He’s had better nights in the past.