Outstanding Liverpool roared into the Champions League quarter-finals with a mature 3-1 away victory at fellow heavyweights Bayern Munich.
The first goal of a tense tie came before half time at Allianz Arena as Senegal forward Sadio Mane delightfully punished Germany No1 Manuel Neuer’s impetuous charge and slotted into an open goal. The score was levelled on the night, however, soon after when Cameroon defender Joel Matip sliced into his own net.
Last season’s beaten finalists were then imperious after the break and gained double reward. Netherlands centre-back Virgil van Dijk produced a towering header on 69 minutes and Mane nodded in Egypt forward Mohamed Salah’s enticing cross soon after to emphatically kill the two-legged contest.
Here are the Bayern player ratings:
Manuel Neuer 4: Has turned into self-parody. Reckless decision to race out was beautifully punished by Mane.
Rafinha 4: Showed why he is a reserve right-back to the banned Kimmich. Mane enjoyed himself out there.
Niklas Sule 5: Didn’t have the speed to get across and help out Rafinha. Wasn’t at his best.
Mats Hummels 4: Critically outjumped by Van Dijk and Mane. Second half proved Germany set-up right.
David Alaba 5: Helped keep Salah fairly quiet in first half. But when he went on attack, Egyptian ran rampant.
Javi Martinez 7: Bayern’s best performer bossed midfield. But lucky not to see red for Wijnaldum stamp.
Thiago Alcantara 5: Performance mirrored Bayern’s: competitive in first half, invisible in second half. Lacked invention.
Serge Gnabry 5: Threatened to give Robertson another rare off night after teeing up goal. Then disappeared from view.
James Rodriguez 5: On-loan Real Madrid playmaker has had a negligible impact on both legs. Bayern needed him to do better.
Franck Ribery 5: Made a few darts around Alexander-Arnold, but no longer has pace to trouble such an accomplished youngster.
Robert Lewandowski 4: Another for whom Bayern expected much, but received little. Denied goal by Matip’s errant clearance.
Kingsley Coman 5: Did not improve on countryman Ribery’s paltry efforts.
Leon Goretzka 5: Greater attacking edge was not witnessed.
Renato Sanches N/A: Youngster represented desperate last throw of the dice.
Since the start of the season there have been pundits who have said the Reds’ Premier League hopes would be best served by exiting Europe as soon as possible.
And, while Klopp admits defeat against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena in the second leg of their goalless last-16 tie would not be the biggest surprise in the competition’s history, his side will not go into the game thinking of the benefits such a result could bring.
“They (pundits) talk constantly. It doesn’t mean they make more sense because of that. That’s the problem,” said the Reds boss.
“I really don’t think that any other coach or manager in the world has to answer this question when he plays in the Champions League.
“It’s really unique. It only happens if you are the Liverpool manager and the pundits come from Manchester United and start these things.
“It is so easy to sit in an office or a studio and talk about things like that.
“We don’t draw up a season and say the best way to go through it is to go out of all the cup competitions early.
“You do that and in that moment the same people go for you like mad.
“Now it is closer to the end of the season and it is allowed to go out of the Champions League without even trying to go through? That’s really mad.
“I am not angry about it. It’s just so mad that I constantly get confronted by it.”
Klopp stressed Liverpool, who reached the final last season and are second in the Premier League, just a point behind Manchester City, want to prove they a “proper threat” in the competition.
“We play proper, real football and we try to win every game,” he added.
“The only thing I would say is that if we go out, maybe the fans won’t be exceptionally angry – ‘How can that happen?’ – because we still have a chance with the league.
“But I don’t think they will think before the game, ‘I hope we go out’. It is not that the players prefer the Champions League to winning the league.
“We still want to prove our value again in Europe. I think that is really important for the club that we really show we are a proper threat in that competition.”
Bayern took great satisfaction from a goalless draw at Anfield three weeks ago and Klopp took that as a sign of the reputation his side have in Europe.
Since then Liverpool have lost top spot domestically, while Bayern have regained the initiative in the Bundesliga, but the Reds boss does not believe the dynamic has been altered.
“We are a proper contender in a difficult competition with only fantastic teams left,” he said.
“Bayern is famous for going for results they think are good for them and on the night they thought 0-0 was the perfect result.
“Now we have to show it is not like this – we have to score if we want to go through; they have to score if they want to go through.”
In order to progress Liverpool will have to end a run of five successive European defeats away from Anfield – a sequence Klopp said had no underlying reason.
“It is nothing to do with being away from home, but of course we have to prove it,” he said.
“It is different, yes, but it is not that we are not able to perform in an away atmosphere.”
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Sane tormented his old club as City powered into the Champions League quarter-finals with an emphatic 10-2 aggregate success, scoring one and setting up three other goals at the Etihad Stadium.
That came after the German also scored a superb free-kick equaliser as City came from behind in the first leg in Gelsenkirchen.
But, asked if Sane was at his best, Guardiola said: “No. After the first goal, yes. Before, no. He was not aggressive enough in the first 20 minutes.
“I like when he runs and goes. If he loses the ball, it doesn’t matter. It is the same with Raheem (Sterling) but they are young.
“I know it is tough for Leroy, he doesn’t play every game, but after 20 minutes he was then outstanding for the goal and the assists.
“He is a player we know has incredible qualities. It is difficult to find around the world a player with the qualities he has.”
Sergio Aguero began the rout with two goals while Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus also got on the scoresheet.
City will find out who they play in the last eight on Friday. Two of Guardiola’s former clubs – Barcelona and Bayern Munich – could join them if they come through their ties on Wednesday. Bayern face City’s chief title rivals Liverpool.
Asked which of those two sides he might prefer, Guardiola said: “I’m sorry for the English people but I want Bayern to go through. I am big fan, I am part of this club. I love Munich, Bayern and all the people. I would like Bayern to go through but it will not be easy.”
Guardiola had described City as “teenagers” in Champions League terms on the eve of the match but their convincing victory was a strong statement to the rest of the competition.
The City boss said: “When I said we are a teenage team, I didn’t say we are not going to fight. We are going to try.
“If it doesn’t work, I am sorry, but I assure you next season we are going to try.
“This competition is incredibly tough, there are incredible teams, so when we are through the group stages I am happy. It is so nice to be in the quarter-finals for the third time in our history.”
Schalke’s humiliating loss could spell the end for their under-fire manager Domenico Tedesco. With his side struggling in the Bundesliga, Tedesco had reportedly been on the brink of the sack heading into the game.
Tedesco said: “I’m extremely disappointed. We fell apart. There was a lack of tension and it was the worst we’ve had here since I was coach.
“Of course it hurts and it’s difficult to stand here when you lose four, five, six, seven-nil but that’s why I’m here – not just in good times but in situations where it’s less fun. It really hurts today.”
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