UEFA Champions League: Liverpool gives Bayern Munich das boot; Messi the professional takes out on Lyon
Updated 18:55, 14-Mar-2019
Josh McNally

There's no game in soccer as tense as the second leg of a knockout when the first game ends nil-nil. While a final is the ultimate – there's a reason why the Spanish use that term to describe every big game – a second leg has a precursor that hangs over the proceedings. Doubts linger and expectations are formed as memories of the first leg become the basis for a whole new game plan. No side has any clear advantage yet bluffs and double bluffs that wouldn't appear in a standard clash find their way into tactics that are based on a set of unknown knowns.

But you wouldn't have known it by the way Bayern Munich played the home leg of their tie with Liverpool at the Allianz Arena. Slow, stodgy and far too satisfied with their defensive performance at Anfield, Bayern were outplayed in every aspect by an incredibly game Liverpool, who not only came in aware that they were on the nil-nil precipice but played as if to make up for the last game too.

Sadio Mane keeps the ball away from Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer during their Champions League game at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, on March 13, 2019. /Xinhua Photo 

Sadio Mane keeps the ball away from Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer during their Champions League game at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, on March 13, 2019. /Xinhua Photo 

Defender Virgil Van Dijk was absent from the teams' first clash and essentially played two games worth of football in the second clash. With him bolstering the back line, Liverpool went from preventive defense to active defense; Van Dijk stuck to Lewandowski like glue, limiting him to barely a shot on goal, and clamped down on Bayern's unimpressive wing play with Joel Matip – whose own goal was the product of a no win situation – and the wingbacks of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. His header to make the game 2-1 midway through the second half is one of the rare occasions when a goal feels like the icing on the cake rather than cake itself.

The other Liverpool goals came from the on form Sadio Mane. He now has 10 goals in as many games and is one short of 20 in all contests this season. Mo Salah, last year's gunslinger for Liverpool – deemed a talisman for the team by practically everybody (including us) – has been relegated to simply being a “threat" up front, bursting through back lines and taking his chances while Mane actually produces the goods: Compare Salah blasting it wide from just outside the box in the 24th minute with Mane's skillful pivoting goal barely two minutes later. The poise, precision and gamesmanship needed to pull it off, particularly in such a tense fixture as this, prove he is the new danger man. Likewise, his second and Liverpool's third, involved him not only beating Mats Hummels to the far post but then leaping and catching it with his head at the perfect angle to sneak it in between the post itself and Neuer's outstretched hand.

While that goal did enough to kill the tie and prompt the travelling Kopites to burst into song, the game was Liverpool's from the moment Matip's OG equalizer went in without bringing any signs of life to Bayern. It feels like the giants of German football were caught napping this season and are currently flailing about in an attempt to prove otherwise. Franck Ribery is too old, Robert Lewandowski is too predictable (and clearly looking to leave), Javi Martinez is too frail, Manuel Neuer is too exposed and new manager Niko Kovacs doesn't seem to want to take any risks with his newer players. The argument is that Bayern's dominance of the Bundesliga has been a detriment to the team's European competitiveness, as witnesses by a complete lack of final appearances since 2013. Now it seems like their top dog status has blinded them to even the basics of their game.

Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk handles Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski during their Champions League game at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, on March 13, 2019. /Xinhua Photo

Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk handles Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski during their Champions League game at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, on March 13, 2019. /Xinhua Photo

Elsewhere, Lionel Messi masterminded a masterpiece against Ligue 1's Lyon. Though this game was also a second leg following a nil-nil, it couldn't have had a more different tempo as the home side went full pelt against the visitors and thumped them 5-1. Messi kicked the night off with a penalty to make it 1-0 and kept his foot on the pedal as he either set up or scored another three with Philippe Coutinho's goal being the one outlier on the night. 

Besides for a brief spell in the second half, when Lyon pulled one back thanks to Lucas Tousart, Barcelona were simply too much to handle for the French side who can return home with their heads held high, knowing they managed to put up more of a fight than their champions, Paris Saint-Germain.