Liverpool 4 - 2 Hoffenheim: as it happened, goals, 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.