Liverpool’s success in the Allianz Arena means the adventure continues apace; Danny Gallagher sets the scene for another famous European night.
There’s always ‘that’ sound. The endless, air-consuming ring of a European away ground.
No recognisable words or apparent phrases, just a humming drone which clots and congeals, hanging in the atmosphere and increasing in decibel until it feels like it fills your entire head.
This is what greeted Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night.
A hostile whistling, from a fanbase desperate to see their side—recently seated back atop of their Bundesliga throne—make the European stride they so greatly needed.
It was all set up for the Bavarians, who were banking so heavily on that hard-earned Anfield 0-0. With the travelling Kopites shut away in the top tier, the acoustic advantage was clear…
More than a match
For the passages of play Niko Kovac’s side sewed together in the first half, the Reds weathered and weathered once more.
This is a different Liverpool. This isn’t even the Liverpool of last season’s heady run to Kiev, which blessed thousands of Reds with a lifetime of memories in that sun-soaked Shevchenko Park—regardless of the ultimate outcome.
That Liverpool was still wanting in the department of order and decorum.
Capable of flying off the handle and annihilating an opponent, yet equally as able to catch a glimpse of itself in the mirror and melt under a wave of self-doubt.
Those days are done. Klopp now has the Liverpool he wanted all along, and this is a real footballing side.
Some hours prior to kick-off, as Reds in their dozens drifted among Munich’s quaint Marienplatz centre, everything that is good about this football club came together.
In a week where fans have been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, the travelling Kop stamped their authority on yet another far foreign land—with both respect and good intention.
Locals mixed with the newcomers, speaking glowingly about their first visit to Anfield last month, and recounting tales of woe of years gone by inflicted by a certain yellow cap-wearing Klopp.
Inside an Irish pub at the heart of Munich’s old town, a solitary young Red who had made the long-haul flight over from India stood nervously at the bar. Despite knowing every word to every chant, lips were sealed shut in fear of appearing out of place.
Several minutes later, and various clinking of glasses with a group hailing from Bootle, and the mental shackles were lifted—Allez Allez Allez belted out in full voice.
Did the preceding conversation of heavy scouse and Indian English make lots of sense to either party? Perhaps not. Did it matter? No sir, particularly when the common language is football.
There’s something really special about this club, on and off the pitch.
Back on it, however, Sadio Mane is now quietly going about proving himself to be one of the most in-form forwards in Europe.
His sending of Manuel Neuer for a bratwurst may have just about pushed the Gelsenkirchener’s faltering season over the edge.
Liverpool took to the Allianz like a seasoned boxer, absorbing what was needed before picking precision punches with aplomb.
If Mane’s opener penetrated the Bavarian sails, Joel Matip’s own-goal was merely a large wad of masking tape over the damage.
Belief did not radiate from the home side, despite the best efforts of adrenaline-injection from the vocal fans behind either goal—sending chants, as they did from one side of the field to the other in an impressive, masculine exchange.
Very German, yet ultimately very pointless.
Liverpool had the game by the scruff of the neck and the ever-impressive Fabinho began to set the midfield by his own pace. Whenever he is fit, he should now be one of the first names jotted down on the team sheet.
With Bayern knowing a 1-1 scoreline wouldn’t be enough to seal progression, confidence drained from Kovac’s men and dissipated through the cold night air.
Right on cue, Van Dijk rose. Higher and higher, an absolute statue of a man. Rattling in another header and all but killing the contest.
If the Bavarians had been wondering what they had been missing in the Dutchman’s first-leg absence, they were now fully aware.
Bayern were restricted to just two shots on target in their own back yard. The very stage where, in the recent past, they ruled supreme continentally, during the Das Reboot phase of German football.
The Allianz is Ours
And then it came. Cascading down from the upper tier and spilling onto the turf, the united voices of thousands of buoyant Kopites in an acoustic tidal wave.
The subdued Allianz permitted it, putting up little fight to drown out their guests. They knew, with a depressing certainty, that their team were not scoring the two goals needed in the dying stages.
There’s something quite beautiful about the elongation of ‘defend’ in the Van Dijk chant, and it permeated around the stadium like a force-field, ringing out like a national anthem as down below the Dutchman puffed out his chest and roared to the skies.
This Liverpool team is back where it belongs. Part of the very fabric of the Champions League, a team all wished to avoid in the quarter-final draw.
As the masses departed the bubble-like stadium and made for the exits, a trio of veteran Bayern matchgoers could be heard speaking of the driezack with the shaking of heads. The ‘trident.’
Liverpool are much more than their quite ridiculous front three, but their impact was scolding in Bavaria.
Mane’s brace, Firmino’s tireless ingenuity and Salah’s palate-knife assist in the final minutes, which should be hung in a gallery, such was its artistry. Each, mesmerising.
As shoulders rubbed shoulders and feet trudged in slow, uniform fashion to the packed-to-bursting station, the Allianz glowed red in the distance.
A vanquished red. A bloodied red. A Liverpool red. This is some football team.