Liverpool marched into the Champions League quarter-finals with a memorable 3-1 victory at the home of Bayern Munich on Wednesday night.
Sadio Mane brilliantly bagged the strike the visitors knew they needed as a minimum just before the half-hour mark and, though Joel Matip conceded an own goal, Jürgen Klopp’s men rallied after the interval and went back in front via a clinical Virgil van Dijk header.
Qualification was sealed by Mane, a standout performer for the Reds once again, with a diving header six minutes from time on a special occasion in Germany.
Here are five talking points from an historic night at the Allianz Arena…
Recent form suggested Liverpool’s No.10 was the likeliest man to provide the goal they needed at the Allianz Arena, Mane having netted eight times in his previous nine appearances.
And so it proved, courtesy of an exquisite exhibition of technique.
In one decisive motion, the Senegal international deftly controlled Van Dijk’s ambitious long pass to the left corner of Bayern’s penalty box, shimmied the ball around the outrushing Manuel Neuer and clipped a precise finish over two recovering defenders and home.
The two-hour wait for a breakthrough in the tie was well worth it.
And it was Mane who ultimately confirmed Liverpool’s spot in the last eight, too, with an unerring headed finish in the closing stages, his 19th of the campaign in all competitions.
It says much for Mane’s influence on this Reds team that no player in club history can match his tally of seven away goals in the European Cup/Champions League.
‘And we watch him score!’
If a criticism of Van Dijk’s very own Liverpool anthem were allowed, perhaps one line hadn’t been a reality on enough occasions during his first year with the club.
But the Dutchman – a double scorer in the 5-0 Premier League rout of Watford last month – popped up with as valuable a goal as he may ever notch for the Reds in the 69th minute of this second leg in Munich.
Meeting James Milner’s curving corner from the right, Van Dijk rose to power a header down into the bottom left corner and effectively put the game, and the tie, beyond the Bundesliga champions.
It was the defender’s maiden Champions League goal on his 19th appearance in the competition and one Liverpool fans around the world will be celebrating in song.
Liverpool’s exhilarating journey to last season’s Champions League final was founded on a particular first-leg trend.
In all three of their knockout matches en route to Kiev, Klopp’s side emphatically raced into a healthy lead at the halfway stage of the tie – FC Porto (5-0), Manchester City (3-0) and AS Roma (5-2) – before preserving the advantage in the second game.
Here, they faced a different challenge, having run into a Bayern defensive wall at Anfield three weeks earlier. They would have to be ‘exceptional’ according to the manager.
And they were: they got the goal needed, they weathered the hosts’ response, they composed themselves and they took control, eventually stunning the Allianz Arena with the second-half double.
Klopp top over two legs
The boss holds a formidable record in two-legged European ties during his managerial career that becomes perfect when filtered to his time at Liverpool only.
This was his 16th victory in 20 overall, while the Reds have emerged triumphant from all nine he has overseen in the Europa League and Champions League since taking charge in 2015.
Fate fans might be interested to know that in the past three seasons that Liverpool have faced a German club in Europe, they have won the tie and gone on to reach the final – in 2005, 2016 and 2018.
All eyes now on Nyon
So, for the second successive season Liverpool take their place in the Champions League quarter-finals, completing a clean sweep for English teams – with all four in the last eight.
The remainder of the tournament will be mapped out in Friday’s draw in Nyon, with the lack of seeding and country protection meaning the Reds can be paired with any of the other seven sides, including all three fellow Premier League clubs.
Ajax, FC Barcelona, Juventus and FC Porto are the other potential opponents for a team who served a timely reminder of their credentials in this competition tonight.