Liverpool's searing pace proved too much for beleaguered hosts Bayern Munich in the second Audi Cup 2017 semi-final at the Allianz Arena in Munich, with the Reds comprehensively beating the Bavarians 3-0 to set up a summit clash with Atletico Madrid in the process.
First-half goals from Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah got the English outfit off to a brilliant start before a sublime finish from Daniel Sturridge added gloss to the scoreline.
Unbeaten in their pre-season so far, Liverpool knew they faced a stiff test against the mighty Bavarians and they sent out a statement of intent to the rest of the Premier League with an all-round display.
Save custodian Loris Karius, full-backs Alberto Moreno and Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool had a first-choice starting XI, with Roberto Firmino playing at the tip of a 4-2-3-1 formation with Philippe Coutinho, Mane and club record-signing Salah giving him company in attack.
Bayern, still coming to terms with losses to Arsenal, Inter and AC Milan, were without Manuel Neuer in goal but overall they had a solid line-up of their own with Robert Lewandowski leading the line.
The Pole was playing in front of James Rodriguez, on a two-year loan from Real Madrid, with Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller occupying either wing. Arturo Vidal was on the bench and perhaps the combative Chilean’s absence was why the visitors got off to a sensational start.
Summer signing Corentin Tolisso had his pockets picked by Firmino on the half-line and the Brazilian sprinted towards goal with Mane making a run on his left. Firmino released his teammate as he neared the Bayern penalty area and the Senegalese took a touch before finishing past Sven Ulreich with his weaker foot to give Liverpool the lead in the 7th minute.
Carlo Ancelotti would have hoped that his side would be stung into action after going down, but Liverpool continued to dominate proceedings and Ulreich was called into action after Moreno’s low cross found Salah at the far post and the keeper made a smart save to deny the Reds.
Renato Sanchez was introduced for Thiago Alcantara in the 21st minute but the young Portuguese was unable to disrupt Liverpool’s rhythm and the English outfit went close to doubling their lead via a dipping Moreno free-kick, but Ulreich was equal to the task yet again.
Mane was causing Bayern’s defence all sorts of problems on the left wing and the 25-year-old’s deft backheel set up Moreno for a sizzling cross which was headed into an empty net by Salah in the 34th minute.
Post the interval, it was largely one-way traffic in Liverpool’s favour again, with Bayern struggling to combine in the attacking third and were lucky that Marko Grujic’s strike was ruled out for an offside.
Adam Lallana, on at half time for Mane, was adjudged to have interfered with the goalkeeper’s line of sight and the home crowd breathed a huge sigh of relief.
James Rodriguez came close to putting Bayern on the scoresheet with long-range effort just before the hour-mark, but the shot was just wide and it wasn't long before Liverpool would find a third goal which would put the game beyond doubt.
Daniel Sturridge, a 67th-minute introduction, deft chip seven minutes from time over Ulreich proved to be the highlight of the match for a variety of reasons. Bayern’s high backline was exposed by the English striker’s pace and while his finish was exquisite, the fact that he immediately clutched his thigh after scoring drew sighs from the travelling Liverpool supporters.
Sturridge’s career has been riddled with injuries and with the Premier League season less than a fortnight away, the 27-year-old will hope the complaint isn't a serious one.
In the earlier semi-final, Atletico Madrid beat Napoli 2-1 thanks to goals from and the Rojiblancos will now face Liverpool in the final on Wednesday night after a third-place tie between Napoli and Bayern.