Situated in the broadcasting gantry within Anfield’s main stand, Oliver Miller offers his view on Liverpool’s Champions League Play-off match against Hoffenheim.
Liverpool secured their place in the Champions League group stages with an impressive 4-2 win over Hoffenheim.
There was a sense of anticipation around the stadium leading up to kickoff, Champions League football had returned to Anfield. Although the crowd were hopeful that there would be at least three more nights like this to follow – there was also a realisation that it would not be easy.
With a 2-1 advantage in hand from last week’s first leg in Germany, Liverpool responded to the lively Anfield crowd by scoring three inside the opening 20 minutes. Jurgen Klopp had been asked in the pre-match press conference as to whether Liverpool would start cautiously or at full-speed, there and then he responded with “wait and see”. Yet 24 hours later it was plain for all to see.
Liverpool started at breakneck speed – quick, accurate passing and movement that left Hoffenheim in a spin. Emre Can’s deflected shot put them ahead before Mohamed Salah reacted quickest to slot in a rebound off the post. The crowd’s pre-match nerves turned into enjoyment.
The third goal was the pick of the bunch – a slick team move finished with Can stroking in Firmino’s cross at the back post. It was a picturesque goal – one worthy of the Champions League – that even had a lot of the gantry on its feet.
At 3-0, with Liverpool teasing and the Kop singing, Julian Nagelsmann was forced to change his system and sent on Uth. The substitute managed to make an immediate impact as he fired a shot past Simon Mignolet on 29 minutes.
The game slowed – the job was done. Firmino, who had been so effective leading Liverpool’s attacking line all evening, made sure of it just after the hour by passing the ball into the Hoffenheim net after being set up by Henderson. Hoffenheim grabbed another consolation late on when Sandro Wagner headed in a cross from Kramaric.
There was no dramatic comeback on this European night at Anfield – they had won convincingly. The manner in which Liverpool swept away Hoffenheim was impressive. Klopp labelled it a ‘thunderstorm’ but whatever it was, it certainly was powerful.
The performance by the reds, in the first half especially, was as good as had been seen at Anfield for quite some time. The attacking play of Mane and Firmino backed up by the drive of Can and Wijnaldum ensured Liverpool were just to good for Hoffenheim and their ‘bright young thing of a coach’.
Liverpool’s high-tempo and accurate play was enthralling for all to watch. On a night when many said the performance did not matter – it was simply about the result – the Anfield crowd was left assured that their team looked well-equipped to give a good account of themselves in the Champions League group stage.
Emre Can was the driving force in Liverpool’s victory – scoring the opening goal and finishing off the classy third. It was Can’s first brace as a Liverpool player. His clever movement in attacking areas caused Hoffenheim numerous problems and enabled Liverpool to be so devastating.
Mane also impressed once again with blistering bursts forward and workrate in tracking back to help his team-mates – the only thing missing from his performance was a goal.
Mignolet: 6, Alexander-Arnold: 7, Matip: 6, Lovren: 6, Moreno: 5, Henderson: 7, Can: 9, Wijnaldum: 8, Mane: 9, Salah: 7, Firmino: 8.
Substitutes: Milner 6, Klavan 6.