A scoreless draw is rarely thrilling, but Liverpool and Bayern Munich managed to provide fireworks on Tuesday even if they didn't provide goals.
In one of the most anticipated matchups in Champions League Round of 16 play, it was Bayern Munich that will come away happier, keeping the scintillating and ceaseless Liverpool attack off the board. Bayern's midfield and defense deserves credit for absorbing Liverpool's pressure, though both sides will lament opportunities that went begging.
Sadio Mane's wastefulness will come under particular scrutiny, after he spurned a golden chance in the box in the first half. The ball found the Liverpool attacker in the box, behind Bayern's defense, but he turned and shot too quickly, dragging the ball wide.
This fixture is far from over, with the two sides set to face one another again on March 13. But Bayern will head into that matchup feeling positive about their chances of advancing after stifling Liverpool at Anfield, becoming the first visiting side to prevent the Reds from scoring at home since Manchester City last October.
Mo Salah and Liverpool Must Be Far Less Wasteful in Munich
The match stats tell much of the story. Liverpool held the advantage in shots (15-9) and shots on target (2-0), according to WhoScored.com, and while Bayern held a slight advantage in possession (51 percent), it often felt as though Liverpool were far more threatening and bright on the ball.
That was especially true in the first half when Liverpool recovered from a shaky start and consistently blitzed Bayern's final third. What they couldn't do, however, is find the back of the net.
Sane's miss will get much of the heat, but Mo Salah didn't put his best foot forward, either. At times, it felt like he fell to the periphery of Liverpool's attack. Other times, his touch seemed a bit off, including when he completely flubbed an attempted cross into the box with Bayern scrambling in the second half.
David Maddock @MaddockMirror
Said before the start (but didn't want to provoke twitter!) 0-0 would be decent-ish result for #LFC. No away goals, Bayern have weakness defending the counter, and will have to come out in Munich. Reds will have van Dijk and Lovren back...and Salah won't be this bad again, surely
Perhaps you could argue that Liverpool were a bit unlucky at times. Brilliant passes on the edge of the box found their way to Joel Matip, rather than a more dangerous attacker. Mane's redirected header later in the contest was deflected by a Bayern defender and saved by Manuel Neuer in superb fashion, robbing another potential goal.
At other times, Bayern simply did an excellent job of bending without breaking, forcing players like Naby Keita into low-percentage chances on bicycle kicks or longer-range efforts. And Bayern truly clamped down in the second half, as the game went from a more breathless affair to a relatively uneventful one.
It's inevitable that Liverpool won't be able to swarm Bayern for a full 90 minutes. That makes it all the more important that they actually finish the chances they create. That will only be more difficult in Munich, with the Bayern supporters out in full force.
Liverpool can take a lot of positives away from Tuesday's performance, especially the way they controlled the flow of the game in the first half. But if Salah and the Liverpool attackers aren't more clinical in the final third, it will all be a moot point.
Robert Lewandowski Must Put More Pressure on Liverpool's Back Line in Return Leg
For all of Liverpool's wastefulness on attack, their stinginess on defense was truly impressive. In particular, Liverpool's back line held the dangerous Robert Lewandowski in check.
Not only that, they virtually locked him out of the game altogether:
Indeed, Liverpool's makeshift back line, with Matip and Fabinho starting at centre-back, far exceeded expectations.
Lewandowski needs to take advantage of such matchups, and he certainly needs to be a bigger factor in the return leg. Bayern didn't offer much of a consistent threat in this one, and while some of that can be blamed on Liverpool's effusive attack dominating the first half, Lewandowski also never put his imprint on this match.
He's not entirely to fault for that, of course. He's reliant on his teammates to find him in threatening positions, and frankly his running mate, James Rodriguez, didn't offer much on Tuesday:
But Bayern will be hard-pressed to beat Liverpool, at home or not, if Lewandowski is invisible. Bayern need to do a better job of finding their star striker in dangerous positions, and Lewandowski needs to be better at getting to them and capitalizing on any opportunities sent his way.
If he's a complete non-factor in Munich, Bayern's Champions League campaign will be doomed.
Liverpool have a huge EPL fixture at Old Trafford on Sunday, facing Manchester United at 9:05 a.m. ET. Bayern, meanwhile, will host Hertha Berlin on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. ET.