Liverpool 4 - 2 Hoffenheim: match report
Liverpool surged in to the Champions League group stages after three goals in the first 21 minutes against Hoffenheim. Emre Can found the net twice either side of a Mo Salah tap-in. Mark Uth scored to give the visitors hope, before Roberto Firmino rolled in the fourth to seal The Reds’ path to the top level of European football. Sandro Wagner nodded a consolation goal for Hoffenheim, but their fate was already decided.
Jürgen Klopp named the same team that had secured a 1-2 victory in Germany last week, with five players returning to the fold after sitting out the Premier League win against Crystal Palace. Hoffenheim ensured their freshness in a more eccentric manner, as a German fan was pictured brushing his teeth shortly before kick-off as the ultras sung around him. His side were not as diligent in defending as he is with dental hygiene.
As the pre-match rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ faded back in to the Kop, the match started at a frenetic rate. The two teams exchanged early chances. Mane missed a one-on-one for Liverpool, and moments later Serge Gnabry skewed wide from six yards just the ‘keeper to beat.
Liverpool settled their nerves after ten minutes. Sadio Mane, a fizzling threat on the left, wrong-footed the Hoffenheim defence with a deft back-heel. Emre Can met it, shot, and wheeled away as the ball took a wicked deflection and thrashed the back of the net.
The second came eight minutes later. Wijnaldum’s shot from just outside the box cannoned off the post and fell at the feet of Mo Salah. The Egyptian wide man adjusted his stance, and tucked it away. Anfield exhaled a collective sigh of relief.
The clocked ticked another three minutes before Emre Can had his second. The German international finished an expansive move that exhibited all of the attractive elements of Kloppian football. Wijnaldum released Mane with a pass weighted to perfection. The Senegalese scythed inside, chopped a back-heel to Firmino, who in acres of space, crossed for Can at the far post. The movement tangled the Hoffenheim defence, and the execution was incisive.
Julian Nagelsmann slouched in the dugout, aggressively chewing gum with a furrowed brow. He sent on Mark Uth, the scorer of Hoffenheim’s late goal in the first leg. And the substitution had an immediate impact as the 25-year-old allowed the ball to roll across his body in the box before arrowing a low shot in to the bottom corner. The team that finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season had a flicker of hope.
The away team needed an early goal in the second half to provoke self-doubt in Liverpool, but they couldn’t make the breakthrough.
Roberto Firmino sealed the match, and the tie, just after the hour mark. Jordan Henderson punished Kevin Vogt’s defensive pondering, and squared the ball to the Brazilian to roll the ball in to Baumann’s bottom corner against his former club.
Sandro Wagner nodded in a consolation goal for Hoffenheim, but the Champions League ship had already sailed. Liverpool were onboard and waving back to shore.
Liverpool 4 - 2 Hoffenheim: as it happened
90'+3' FT. Liverpool are through to the Champions League proper.
90'+3' Moreno is still full of energy. He bursts on to a speculative ball, but can't quite reach it before it runs in to the box and in to Baumann's arms.
90' There will be three added minutes. The fouth official holds up his board, and in the background, the Liverpool support launch in to a rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone'.
90' Hübner, frustrated, receives a late booking.
88' Sadio Mane ambles off to a standing ovation. Ragnar Klavan comes on in his place and slots in to the defensive line.
87' Firmino fizzes a shot in to the side netting, under pressure from Hübner.
83' Alberto Moreno fancies a spot on the score-sheet. The Spaniard strides forward, and in the absence of anyone closing him down, has a pop... it finds only The Kop.
81' A loose touch from Dennis Geiger allows Mane to surge forward. Vogt nips in to take the ball from him on the edge of the box, but Hoffenheim look susceptible on the counter attack as they push for another goal.
79' GOOOOOL! Wagner meets Zuber's cross and nods low in to the net. A tidy finish, but they need three more.
78' Wagner, with his back to goal, lays the ball off to Demirbay. His shot from 25 yards is firm and true, and Mignolet gets down well to parry away from goal. The rebound falls to an offside Hoffenheim player.
77' The Hoffenheim supporters continue to roar on their team.
76' Hoffenheim half-heartedly probe. Uth cuts a long, diagonal pass back in to the box with his first touch, but it's beyond the stretched leg of Wagner.
73' The game has slowed down significantly. Both teams know that this is over.
69' James Milner receives his instructions on the touchline. Liverpool's Mr Reliable comes on for the excellent Emre Can.
68' Emre Can rumbles forward on the right and shapes a low cross towards the edge of the six-yard box. Baumann dives out to claim before it runs through to Firmino.
65' Joe Gomez replaces Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Jeremy Toljan replaces Kaderabek.
63' GOOOOOL! Firmino closes out the match. Vogt is sold short and dallies when he should be going in to full 'hoof' mode. Henderson steals the ball and lays it across to the Brazilian to roll in to the bottom corner.
62' Simon Mignolet has a bit of a 'moment'. Sandro Wagner beats him to a cross and heads the ball straight up in the air. The Belgian fumbles it as it comes back down, and just about recovers before it drops at the feet of Kramaric.
60' Alexander-Arnold has done his burgeoning reputation no harm in this match. He drives in from the touchline, and knocks the ball from his right foot to his left in an attempt to beat Hübner. The ball richochets off the defender, allowing Alexander-Arnold to slide it across to Wijnaldum, who stings the 'keeper's palms. From the rebound, Trent A-A can only play the ball behind on the slide.
58' Mane shapes to shoot on his right foot, pulls the ball on to his left, and unleashes a fierce effort from inside the box that Baumann can only tip behind. The Senegalese is causing problems every time he has the ball at his feet. Hoffenheim clear the corner, but Liverpool are back on the ball.
57' That's Gnabry's final involvement. He's off, with Adam Szalai on. He trudges down the tunnel, accompanied by the physio and his medical bag.
56' Gnabry pushes the ball to Uth, who slides a cross-cum-shot across the face of goal. Lovren lets it run out for a goal kick.
54' Trent Alexander-Arnold chucks a throw-in to Wijnaldum, and the Dutchman plays a neat one-two with Salah before charging in to the box. With just Baumann to beat, he loses his cool. The ball flies in to the Kop.
52' Mane turns on the after-burners and speeds away from Kaderabek. The Czech wing-back, who is no slouch himself, recovers to send Mane's cross out for a corner. Matip rises on the penalty spot, and heads over the bar.
51' Vogt is now booked for a body-check on Firmino, half way inside the Hoffenheim half.
50' Firmino stabs the ball through to Salah, and he's free to gallop towards goal. Just as he gets in to his stride, the linesman hoists his flag and receives a grateful thumbs-up from Kevin Vogt in the Hoffenheim defence.
48' Hoffenheim have a corner in front of their booming support, but the floated delivery to the edge of the box finds Salah. The Egyptian bursts forward, and for a moment Liverpool are 4 v 3 on the counter attack. A hesitant ball to Mane on the left allows the Hoffenheim defence to get back in position.
46' Early pinball in the Hoffenheim box. It doens't fall to anyone and Baumann hoofs clear.
46' Roberto Firmino gets the ball rolling for the second half.
The teams are heading back out. More of the same thrilling football awaits.
Liverpool blew Hoffenheim away in the first 25 minutes. The German side have improved since the introduction of Mark Uth, but it is likely to be too little, too late.
45'+1' Henderson receives a booking for a strong tackle on Demirbay. He got the ball, but found plenty of shin after.
44' Uth shoots again, and once again it's from the right channel. His shot arrows towards the near post this time, and Mignolet is forced to turn it behind. Hoffenheim take the corner short, and Gnabry drives in to the box before taking a heavy touch and losing the ball.
42' Emre Can is within a whisker of his hat-trick. The ball is running away from Mane, and he leaves it for the German. He curls a low, first time effort to the far post, and it goes agonisingly wide.
Salah celebrates his goal...
39' Mark Uth asks questions once again in the right channel. As the Liverpool defence are pushing out from a corner, the ball is chipped through to him. Mignolet reacts quickly and dives at his feet. He spills the ball at the first attempt, but scrambles across the turf on all fours to smother it on the edge of the box.
38' Kaderabek is booked for thundering in to the back of Mane. The Liverpool man gets up, dusts himself off, and grins. He swings his arms to the Kop, gesturing for them to ease up the volume. He's enjoying himself.
36' Firmino fails to make it four from close range. Alexander-Arnold receives a 50-yard diagonal pass, and with one swift touch, plays in Salah down the wing. He crosses for Firmino in the centre, but Baumann spreads himself well and blocks the shot. It goes out to Mane, who cuts inside and curls a shot in to the 'keeper's arms.
34' Firmino tries to hoist the ball over his shoulder and run on to it in the Hoffenheim box. A nice idea, but he couldn't squeeze past the defender. After ten minutes of concentration loss, Liverpool are threatening again.
32' A rare showing of competent defending, as Kevin Vogt muscles Firmino off the ball before recycling possession in his own half.
30' Young Dennis Geiger is the first player in the book.
28' GOOOOL! Hoffenheim pull one back through Uth, who has only just come on. Lovren passes the ball straight to Wagner on the edge of the box, he plays the ball to Uth on the right, and his low shot skims in to the bottom corner.
27' Moreno and Mane are wreaking havoc on the left flank. The former skips past Kevin Vogt a little too easily, and cuts the ball back from the byline. Hübner gets a foot on the ball, and Baumann smothers it.
25' Another fine chance goes begging for Serge Gnabry. Kramaric pauses on the ball, waiting for Gnabry to move alongside the defensive line, and then slips his team-mate through. The former-Arsenal man takes a touch, and chips the ball over Mignolet. His angles are wrong, and it slides out for a goal kick.
24' A very, very early bath for Nordtveit. He's subbed of for Mark Uth, who scored the goal in the first leg. Nagelsmann wastes no time in making an attacking change.
21' GOOOL! Can finishes off a gorgeous move. Wijnaldum sets Mane free on the left with a perfectly-weighted pass. He cuts inside before chopping a back-heel to Firmino on the overlap. The Brazilian chips a ball to the far post and Emre Can has a straighforward finish. Irresistable, flowing football, and Hoffenheim have no answer.
19' GOL GOL GOL! Salah stabs in from close range after Wijnaldum's shot cannons off the post. The Hoffenheim defenders were like statues there. There was a brief moment of confusion, with everyone looking towards the linesman, but Salah was a good yard onside.
17' Zuber with a positive run on the left flank. He outmuscles Wijnaldum, before deceiving Alexander-Arnold with a flurry of stepovers. It comes to nothing as Liverpool reinforcements arrive.
15' Liverpool's fluid front three of Mane, Firmino, and Salah are pulling the Hoffenheim defence in different directions. Mane wins a free-kick on the left, but Moreno's delivery is over-cooked and Baumann claims.
13' That early goal should settle Liverpool's nerves. But they aren't out of the woods. Hoffenheim still need just two goals to take the match to extra time. Julian Nagelsmann, dressed in a gilet and blue-and-white-striped shirt, chews gum furiously on the bench. Not quite Sam Allardyce levels of furious mastication, but promising nonetheless for such a young coach.
10' GOOOOL! Emre Can! Sadio Mane can't escape the attention of Nordtveit, but does manage to set up Can with a delicious back-heel. His shot takes a wicked deflection and flies in at the near post.
9' Moreno trots over to the right to swing in a free-kick. Firmino buzzes around at the near post in an attempt to meet it, but the Hoffenheim defence outnumber him and clear. A high-octane start at Anfield.
7' Serge Gnabry misses a sitter! Wagner peels away from his marker on to the right, before sliding a ball across the face of goal. Gnabry, with bleach-blonde hair, skews his finish wide from eight yards out. He was unmarked, and that miss is guilt-edged.
5' Liverpool appeal for a penalty after Demirbay blocks a corner at the near post with his shoulder. Nothing doing.
4' Big, big chance for Sadio Mane and Liverpool. The Senegalese was slid in by a lovely diagonal Firmino pass, but one-on-one, he doesn't manage to direct the ball around the onrusing Baumann.
3' Alexander-Arnold's free-kick pops up off the wall in to the patch of Mo Salah at the far post. It's a little too high for the Egyptian, and he nods over.
2' Moreno bursts inside from the left and wins a foul just outside the box, in 'Trent Alexander-Arnold territory'. It's closer to where he took his free-kick from in the first leg.
1' We're underway at Anfield!
Handshakes all-round, and then we'll be underway. The atmosphere is simmering.
'You'll Never Walk Alone' rolls through the evening air in Anfield.
Some pre-kick off dental hygiene at Anfield (the chap front left).
The stage is set.
It will be interesting to see how Jürgen Klopp approaches the match this evening. The natural strategy would be a conservative approach with a view to 'seeing out' the match. But that doesn't come naturally to Klopp's sides. Expect Liverpool to be gung-ho this evening, with Salah and Mane looking to take advantage of Hoffenheim's high defensive line.
With 20 minutes until kick off at Anfield, you've got time to read in to Julian Nagelsmann's background. The Guardian published this fine article about the man who took over at Hoffenheim when he was just 28.
Liverpool have a history of good luck against German opposition, with the most obvious example coming in the 1964-65 European Cup. The Reds went though to the semi-finals at the expense of Köln, quite literally, on the flip of a coin. The 'heads or tails' approach came in to play after the quarter-final between the two finished 2-2.
In the 74 minutes that Dennis Geiger played against Werder Bremen at the weekend, he completed 97.1% of his passes. If you're good enough, you're old enough, as the old saying goes...
Julian Naglesmann has sprung a selection surprise. 19-year-old Dennis Geiger starts in midfield. The youngster has only played 74 minutes for Hoffenheim in the league.
Hoffenheim XI: Baumann; Nordtveit, Vogt, Hübner; Kaderabek, Geiger, Demirbay, Zuber; Kramaric, Gnabry; Wagner.
Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Moreno, Can, and Salah did not start in the 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace at the weekend, but all five return to the fold at Anfield this evening.
Jürgen Klopp names an unchanged team from the first leg in Germany.
Liverpool XI: Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Matip, Moreno; Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Hello and welcome to our build up throughout the day to the vastly important game to decide which of England or Germany's fourth-placed side from last season will reach the Champions League group stage. As we get closer to kick off this evening we'll hand over live to our Matt who will help you live the game as if you were sat in Anfield on what promises to be a special night.