TSG Hoffenheim 1-2 Liverpool FC, UEFA Champions League Play-Off 1st Leg Scorers: – Hoffenheim – Mark Uth Liverpool – Alexander-Arnold, James Milner
Liverpool secure a vital 2-1 away win at Hoffenheim in the Champions League playoff tie. Despite few defensive frailties, the Reds managed to hold on to the lead via some good saves from keeper Simon Mignolet. The German side had their chances including an early penalty but poor finishing and lack of composure meant they were second best in the Rhein-Neckar-Arena.
First Half: –
The anticipation regarding the game was that it will be open with both teams attacking. Defences would be open and counter-attacking will be the perfect weapon. The opening few minutes lived up to that billing. Hoffenheim got an early penalty when Gnabry ran in behind the Liverpool back-line and a squared up Lovren brought him down.
It all started when Moreno went marauding forward trying to close down the Hoffenheim keeper. This created doubt in Lovren’s mind when the ball was played forward and Gnabry made the run. As we see in the image, the defender is on the wrong side which means he will panic when the forward runs at him in the box. The resulting penalty though, was awful. But, the defending in that play was pathetic from Liverpool starting from the left-back.
Mane kept on creating chances from that left-hand side for the Reds. The Senegalese created enough doubt by going past Bicakcic many times forcing the wing-back Kaderabek to be more measured in his forward runs. Around the half hour mark, the Liverpool winger glided past two defenders centrally eventually being brought down by already trouble-stricken Bicakcic. The following free-kick was beautifully struck by an unfazed by situation 18-year old right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold. Right in the corner, it went with the keeper having no chance.
Few moments before half time, Lovren conceded a free-kick and forgot to get back in position arguing with the referee. Hoffenheim played the long ball quick with Moreno the only defender back. It was lucky on Liverpool’s part that the eventual shot by Wagner brushed the outside of the bar and went out. Another moment of panic and uncertainty from the Reds’ backline.
Second Half: –
The second half started with Mane continuing to threaten the Germans with his pace. He created an early chance for Firmino only to be saved brilliantly by Bauman. Nagelsmann then, had to make a change by replacing struggling Bicakcic.
Hoffenheim were the more threatening team with the manager making bold attack-minded changes. But, in the hindsight, it meant that open spaces will be there for Liverpool to pick off their opponents. They did just that with a quarter of the game to go, a quickly taken free-kick caught a midfield-light home team by surprise and Firmino picked out Milner whose deflected cross made the game safe for the away side.
A moment of slack defending very late in the game got the Germans back in this tie. A diagonal ball was put in between Matip and Alexander-Arnold with Uth lurking in behind. Now, the centre-back Matip went ahead to make the offside line with the right-back but Lovren stayed just behind to make the forward on-side (as shown in the image). Now, the only mistake youngster did was that he kept raising his hand to the officials (as shown) for offside rather than sniffing and clearing out the danger.
Analysing the game, we can say that despite winning away from home in a Champions League game, Liverpool aren’t safe. Hoffenheim missed few chances and more importantly, Mignolet made vital saves to keep the Reds afloat. The Germans will be raring to go at Anfield next week but as they say, Liverpool at home in a European tie is never easy. Therefore, one will have to it is advantage Liverpool.