Liverpool 4 – 2 1899 Hoffenheim
(Agg. 6 – 3)
Liverpool: Can (10′, 21′), Salah (18′), Firmino (63′)
Hoffenheim: Uth (28′), Wagner (79′)
Man of the Match: Sadio Mané
Liverpool’s electric attacking display dominates rivals and sends the Merseyside team through the qualifier and into the Champions League. The European nights beneath the Anfield lights are coming.
Well, how are we feeling after that, Reds?! What an exasperating 90 minutes that was, as Liverpool dominated the second leg Champions League qualifier beneath the glowing red Merseyside sky.
The game got underway after Liverpool’s 2-1 away win at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena. The Hoffenheim manager stated he was ‘not in awe’ of Liverpool as a club, and in retaliation they tore Nagelsmann’s team apart on home soil.
They flew out of the starting gate and netted three beautiful goals within the first 20 minutes of the match. Showstopping play from Emre Can, Sadio Mané, Mohammed Salah and Roberto Firmino saw the Reds sail comfortably through into the group stages.
”I’m not in awe of this club. We know it’s a big name with a lot of history. But I’m looking forward to it.” – Julian Nagelsmann (Daily Mail)
First-half goal flurry
The first of the three first half goals came from the strong right foot of Emre Can. The German planted the ball perfectly into the bottom left corner after a clever back-heel from Sadio Mané.
The Reds’ attacking force completely bamboozled the Hoffenheim defense as shot after shot was taken towards the away side’s goal.
The second goal came from a stellar attempt by Georginio Wijnaldum.
Roberto Firmino powered through the defense and crossed the ball in to the number 5 who drilled it towards goal. But his shot just missed and rebounded off the post into the path of Mohammed Salah, who was in the right place at the right time as usual.
Salah stroked the ball into the back of the net and put Liverpool up 2-0 after just eighteen minutes.
Anfield exploded into noise as Liverpool just kept piling on the pressure, hungry for more goals. The lads forced the visitors back into their own half; fizzing and dancing between the opposition like they were in a training session.
Emre Can wrote himself down into the history books as he marked his first ever brace milestone.
Following up more filthy footwork from Mané, Firmino crossed the ball superbly into the box where Can made an elegant tap in with is left foot. He celebrated loud and proud in front of the fans – the passion practically radiating from him.
All three goals started with the pace and creativity of Sadio Mané.
The winger has been a dream signing since he joined the club just last season. His work ethic is 100% until the very last seconds and his connection with the team and the fans is priceless.
When he’s not driving the ball into the net himself, he’s creating unique opportunities for his teammates to finish off. He’s quickly becoming an extremely popular fan favourite with his cheeky grin and unstoppable skill.
The Bundesliga boys failed to get into any sort of groove at all – clearly badly shook up from Liverpool’s unstoppable forward fleet.
The former Arsenal man Serge Gnabry missed two perfectly good chances to put his team back in the running. Hoffenheim waded through Liverpool’s leaky defense and set themselves up with great opportunities that – unfortunately for them – weren’t executed well enough.
As the first half ticked by, the German side looked more and more like a nervous wreck as the boys in red carried on scoring goals just for fun.
After a humiliating 3-0 thrashing, Hoffenheim managed to clinch a goal back in the 28th minute. Liverpool’s defense looked extremely unprofessional and panicked as the German attackers closed in on the goal.
Due to a horrendous error from Dejan Lovren, Mark Uth found the back of the net after the Croatian gifted him the assist.
Klopp’s change in formation
The side that faced the first leg remained unchanged as the final 90 minutes went underway at Anfield.
An odd tactic considering Klopp made three changes in defense for the Premier League Crystal Palace clash which resulted in the Reds’ first clean sheet. The gaffer swapped woeful Lovren for Ragnar Klavan and Alberto Moreno for the new left-back Andy Robertson.
Robertson’s performance was exquisite – dealing with threats, winning aerial duels and dominating the left flank on the attack. But surprisingly the Scot was benched for the important qualifying round and Moreno took his place alongside Lovren.
The two were embarrassing to watch; their whole spell on the pitch was sloppy and amateur at best. Lovren was at fault for both Hoffenheim goals: failing to clear the cross into the box that was nodded in by Sandro Wagner.
A new center-back is an absolute necessity before the transfer window closes. Moreno also seems to fancy himself as a forward.
And with Klopp showing no signs of selling the Spaniard, perhaps converting him into a winger and making Robertson permanent first choice wouldn’t be such a crazy idea.
Sizzling second half
Despite only the one goal in the final 45 minutes, the second half was bursting with even more life than the first.
Refreshed, the team took to the pitch and continued to dominate the game. Weaving between the opposition and creating more and more chances. Wijnaldum suffered another narrow miss which would have put the match to bed but it just wasn’t his night.
It’s relieving to see him back to his regular form – he’s had an off couple of games where he’s failed to make any sort of impact, but Hoffenheim were the ones to experience the missing Gini wrath.
Skipper Jordan Henderson livened up during the second half, too after yet another quiet spell on the pitch. The captain became more involved in pressing and attacking and unselfishly set up Firmino to score the closing goal of the game.
Jurgen Klopp’s attitude during the game was so infectious.
His passion came bursting out of him after each goal – rallying the fans, praising the boys and just generally savouring an incredible match. I think it’s safe to say the gaffer’s happy!
Onto the big league, boys!
Now that Champions League 2017/18 is finally confirmed, Liverpool can look towards their return to the European clashes with some of the biggest names in football.
With an attacking force as strong as ours, we’ll have no trouble running rings around Real Madrid and Barcelona, but without any vast defensive improvement it’s going to be a tedious uphill climb.
The Reds have shown that with or without Philippe Coutinho, they’re a seriously dangerous side to be up against. If every upcoming clash can be as successful as this one, maybe we can add another title to the tally and gloat until the cows come home.
Written by Georgia Goulding
Follow Georgia on Twitter @gjgoulding
Check out her excellent football blog: Football, Findings and Fiction
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