Nothing، perhaps، should give Liverpool such heart ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final as Bayern Munich’s first goal against Real Madrid in the second leg of their semi-final، according to The Guardian.
Nothing dramatic happens. Franck Ribéry turns in from the left flank and plays an unremarkable low pass in to Robert Lewandowski in a central position on the edge of the box. The ball bounces up in front of the Polish striker and his first touch as a result takes him away from goal. He is able، though، to shield the ball and، as Sergio Ramos decides to sit off، Lewandowski has time to work the ball wide to Thomas Müller who is، bafflingly، in 15 yards of space، out on the touchline، roughly level with the edge of the box.
Marcelo، the Madrid left-back، has been drawn into the centre، tucking in as though anticipating that Lewandowski might allow Ribéry’s pass to run across his body and then turn Ramos. That much is reasonable. What is not is what then happens. Marcelo must have been aware of Müller’s presence. Müller is، after all، his primary concern. As soon as Lewandowski’s touch took him away from goal and Ramos didn’t lunge in (and nobody can blame Marcelo for thinking that he might)، Marcelo should have been closing down the space. Instead، he dropped back، five yards behind the defensive line، and only then moved left to shut Müller down.
By then it was probably too late، although Marcelo dawdled، hanging back in a no man’s land when a sprint might still have pressured the cross. Ramos، slightly half-heartedly، did cut out the cross at the near post، but his indecision knocked the ball down for Joshua Kimmich، who scored.
Marcelo is perhaps the finest attacking left-back in the world. That deal that took him from Fluminense to Madrid in 2007 for around £5m may، pound for pound، be the greatest the club has completed. In the majority of the games they play، Marcelo is perfect for Madrid. He works up and down the line. He is quick. His touch is superb. He can cross. He scores a couple of goals a season. The only problem comes when he has to defend. Most of the time he doesn’t have to، but he surely will in Kiev.
If Mohamed Salah is gifted the sort of space on Saturday that Müller was in that second leg، and if he produces anything like the sort of form he was showing a month ago، Liverpool will devastate Madrid on that flank. Normally، that would be enough to give them a clear edge، but this is anything but a normal game. None of the usual rules seem to apply.
Nothing Trent Alexander-Arnold did in Rome was quite as eye-catching as Marcelo’s dilatoriness for that first Bayern goal، but equally the way Stephan El Shaarawy exposed him in the second leg will have not have gone unnoticed by Madrid. In part، of course، that’s because Salah was exempted from defensive duties that night، seemingly instructed to remain high up the pitch and occupy the space behind Aleksandar Kolarov so that every time Liverpool regained possession there was an obvious and dangerous out-ball.