A rampant second half display earned Liverpool a 3-1 victory against Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena on Thursday morning, booking their place in the last eight of the Champions League.
It was a tense affair in the opening stages with Bayern wary of conceding an away goal and Liverpool mindful of not allowing the hosts to build momentum in front of their home support.
Perhaps slightly against the run of play overall, Sadio Mane converted a chance out of nothing for the visitors when a long ball from Virgil van Dijk found him in behind Niklas Sule and Rafinha, and as Manuel Neuer recklessly came off his line, the Senegalese had the presence of mind to turn and clip the ball over the retreating defenders and into the net.
Bayern worked themselves through the game and the equaliser was some time incoming when Serge Gnabry got behind Andrew Robertson on the right-wing before firing the ball across the six-yard box to be turned into his own net by Joel Matip with Robert Lewandowksi bearing in behind him.
Liverpool came out of the half-time interval the more determined team and looking to take control, and control was taken on the cusp of 70 minutes when van Dijk rose tallest to apply a booming header to a James Milner corner.
15 minutes later the Reds had the game, and the tie, all but secured when an exquisite outside of the foot cross from Mohamed Salah found the head of Mane who nodded home his second of the evening.
The main Mane
Another two goals, another match winning performance and further endearment to the Liverpool faithful were on the agenda for the Reds’ no.10.
The 26-year-old has now scored 10 goals in his last 10 games, including two doubles within the space of four days. In fact, the only three games in that 10 match span in which he failed to score, Liverpool drew blank as a team.
Such is his value to the side and the form that he is in that when he has not scored in recent weeks the team has failed to find the net.
His goals have kept Liverpool well alive in the title race and ultimately sent them through to the quarter finals in the Champions League.
On occasions Mane has been labelled as inconsistent or the least important member of Liverpool’s attacking set-up, but his performances in recent weeks have dispelled any such notions.
His sheer pace and movement across the front third combined with his skill and healthy selfishness in front of goal have struck fear into defences ever since his move to Merseyside in the summer transfer window of 2016.
With Salah scoreless in six outings and Roberto Firmino having his own struggles in front of goal, Mane’s purple patch will continue to be vital for the Reds as they compete both in England and in Europe.
Hummels makes his case
With German national team manager Joachim Low watching on at Allianz Arena, Mats Hummels demonstrated that the decision to discontinue his involvement with Die Mannschaft may be too soon in coming.
At 30 years of age, Hummels is far from considering retirement or a final pay check somewhere outside of Europe, but is evidently beginning to lose a turn of pace and sharpness.
After a disappointing showing in Germany’s disastrous World Cup campaign and a so far stuttering club season befitting of some of Bayern’s form, Hummels has seen himself cast aside by Low alongside his teammates Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng.
Formerly under the tutelage of Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, Hummels let his football do the talking with a number of commanding tackles, aerial supremacy and composure and calmness on the ball when playing out of the back.
Die Roten have returned to the top of the Bundesliga with back to back thumping’s of Borussia Moenchengladbach and Vfl Wolfsburg, and should Hummels continue at this level, their assault on yet another league title will be made much easier.
Van Dijk on the big stage
Widely considered as the best centre-back in world football at the current moment, Liverpool’s Dutch No.4 proved those assertions on the big stage in this match.
Suspended for the first leg, van Dijk returned to the side and showed that while the Reds kept Bayern goalless at Anfield, he offers something extra going forward as well as his brilliance at the back.
A goal and an assist from centre half would have fantasy football players licking their lips, but also speaks volumes about van Dijk as a complete footballer, with ball playing ability, positional astuteness, aerial prowess and leadership placing him at the very top of his position.
In just over a year at the club, the difference he has made for Klopp’s side has been immeasurable and his influence will continue to be a major factor in any success Liverpool have on the pitch.
English teams shine
Much maligned for most of this decade for a string of disappointing showings in European competition, the Premier League seems to finally be returning to prominence in continental football.
England’s top flight is the only division ever to have four clubs in the quarter finals of the Champions League with Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United both reaching the last eight in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
Spurs and Manchester City have replaced Arsenal and Chelsea in this season’s feat 10 years on from the last as England searches for its first Champions League winner since 2012.
With half of the quarter final draw taken up by those teams, it should be considered likely that at least one go on to reach the semi-finals, and with Manchester City and Liverpool playing some outstanding football and Manchester United revelling in the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revival, a winner from England is not the most wild of predictions.