A fantastic display of attacking football from Liverpool saw them overwhelm German side Hoffenheim and book their spot in the group stages of the Champions League following a 4-2 win at Anfield.
The Reds led 2-1 from the first leg at the Rhein Neckar Arena, and coach Jurgen Klopp chose to keep faith with the same XI that had done the business in Germany. The home side were up and running in the 10th minute when Firmino’s long pass found Sadio Mane, who produced an outrageous backheel to set up Emre Can, whose shot took a deflection off Kevin Vogt and past Hoffenheim keeper Olivier Baumann.
Eight minutes later, the Firmino-Mane combination was again at hand to trouble Julian Nagelsmann’s side. The Senegalese’s first time effort hit the post, but Mo Salah was the quickest to the rebound, and the Reds were 2-0 up with the Egyptian’s first ever Anfield goal.
Three minutes later, Hoffenheim were dead and buried as Can added his second goal. Like with the first goal, a long pass caught their defence unawares, and a Mane backheel and Firmino cross later, Can volleyed home at the far post to make it 3-0.
Liverpool had been unbeaten at Anfield against German opposition (W11, D3) prior to Hoffenheim’s visit, and a look at betting sites had the Reds as strong favourites against Hoffenheim. And at 3-0, the game was done and dusted, with the slick nature of the third sending coach Klopp into raptures of delight on the sidelines.
Liverpool have however exhibited defensive frailties in the recent past, and the way they gave away the ball in the lead up to Hoffenheim’s first goal, scored by substitute Uth, would’ve been a cause of great concern for Klopp.
But Hoffenheim were equally terrible defensively and a poor piece of communication between Kerem Demirbay and Kevin Vogt saw Reds skipper Jordan Henderson pounce, and Liverpool’s three goal lead was restored after the medio squared the ball to Firmino, who slotted in from twelve yards.
Hungarian international Adam Szalai headed in a goal for the visitors but it was to prove nothing other than mere consolation, with Liverpool running out 6-3 winners on aggregate. 51,808 spectators were in attendance at Anfield for this clash- the first time since 1978 that a crowd of over 50,000 was present to witness a European clash featuring the Reds.
Liverpool’s victory means that there will be five English sides in the group stages of the Champions League, with Chelsea, Spurs and Man City qualifying automatically and Manchester United booking their spot by virtue of their Europa League victory last season.