It was very much a case of one Brazilian superstar replacing another as Roberto Firmino impressed up top in a Liverpool side aiming to finally put the Philippe Coutinho debacle to one side.
The number 10 was involved in all four of the home side’s goals as they overcame a determined Hoffenheim 4-2 at Anfield, eventually winning the tie 6-3 on aggregate. The German outfit were simply overwhelmed by Firmino and co, with the tricky forward grabbing an assist and a goal in the impressive attacking display, where once again defensive lapses were the only cause for concern in a dominant performance from the Reds.
Firmino led the line for Liverpool, who came out of the blocks fastest and caused major problems within the Hoffenheim defence, with the forward key in the first three goals in the first half, before finally getting on the score sheet himself to complete the rout. The fantastic score line means the Reds have now scored 3+ goals in consecutive European home games for the first time since 1997.
The Brazilian’s involvement in the first two goals was key, linking up with fellow forward Sadio Mane and midfielder Emre Can to produce a well worked first goal, before again joining up with his attacking team-mates to allow Mohamed Salah to tap in a second goal just inside the 20th-minute mark. His moment of brilliance arrived in the delivery of Can’s second goal as he clipped a wonderful cross in for the German to steer home, simply proving too hard to handle for a terrified Hoffenheim defence.
Firmino then got his name on the score sheet after the tireless Jordan Henderson capitalized on a mistake from the away side’s skipper Kevin Vogt, who unselfishly played the striker through for a well-deserved fourth Liverpool goal of the night. In an inspired performance at Anfield, Firmino led his hard-working side to a comfortable victory in the end, despite yet another anxious defensive display.
The front trio of Mane, Salah and Firmino were simply unstoppable on a magical night at Anfield, where Liverpool returned to the Champions League group stages for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign, while they have now won six successive European games at Anfield (including qualifiers) against German opposition. Two extremely tough tests await either side of the international break, with a home tie against Arsenal this coming Sunday followed by a tricky test to Manchester City two weeks later.
With this tremendous attacking display at Anfield, Liverpool’s defensive woes have once again been brought to light, and so Jurgen Klopp certainly has some huge decisions to make regarding transfers as the window closes next week, but right now it is undoubtedly time to celebrate as Liverpool become the sixth British team to reach this year’s Champions League group stage.