Liverpool faced two of the strongest defences in football that have come up against this season when they faced Niko Kovač’s Bayern Munich in the Champions League and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United in the Premier League. Both matches resulted in no goals.
However, is this the whole story? Analysis of these two games can be broken down into an excellent attacking display by Liverpool in the first half against Bayern, and excellent defensive displays, first by Bayern in the second half and also by Manchester United over 90 mins.
Liverpool vs Bayern 1st Half
In the first half against Bayern, Liverpool were dangerous, creating three big chances and were it not for poor finishing from Mane, the whole game may have gone a different way. Liverpool pressed high and focussed their pressing on Bayern’s fullbacks, Joshua Kimmich and David Alba, their most dangerous outlets, with Kimmich being the most notable victim. A major point to note is that Bayern also tried to attack, giving Liverpool the chance to implement their biggest weapon, the press.
Liverpool vs Bayern 2nd Half
In the second half, Bayern decided not to attack with the same intensity as in the first, seemingly wanting to settle for the draw, and take on Liverpool in front of their fans at Anfield. What followed was a defensive masterclass. Despite the continued intensity of Liverpool’s press, Bayern were composed and knocked the ball around with ease at the back. Liverpool ended the game with a very respectable 2.1XG against one the best defensive sides in Europe. However, almost all of the XG was attributable from the first half.
Liverpool vs Manchester United 1st Half
Against their biggest rivals, Liverpool’s attacking woes continued. Manchester United, hit by injuries to key players such as Ander Herrera, were able to effectively shut out Liverpool. The Reds were then rocked by their own key injury to Roberto Firmino. Injured early in the half, Firmino had already completed three ball recoveries and one pass into the box. His replacement, Daniel Sturridge, completed only one ball recovery and one pass into the box for the remainder of the game.
Halftime gave Manchester United time to regroup and formulate a revised game plan. United sat deep and allowed Liverpool to have 64% possession, unheard of for a Manchester United team at home against the Reds.
Liverpool’s main threat in gegenpressing was nullified as the opportunity just wasn’t there. They never seemed to recover from the Firmino injury, reflected in Sadio Mane only registering a pass completion rate of 57% after the loss of the number 9.
It was Manchester United that created the games only big chance through a quick counter attack spearheaded by Marcus Rashford, who himself was injured. Manchester United also edged the XG 0.48 to Liverpool’s 0.38, despite the latter’s enjoying most of the possession.
In the end, Liverpool were relieved to get away with a draw.
WORDS: Anish Uppal (@anishuppal79)
IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons
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