Observations as Liverpool edge ahead in first-leg against Hoffenheim
It was a nervy night for us Liverpool fans as the first-leg of the Champions League qualifier got under way with a trip to Hoffenheim.
Shaky straight off the bat, the German outfit looked capable of causing real problems for Klopp’s side, who’s defensive frailties are well documented. That was confounded by an 11th minute penalty which raised more than a few heart rates around Merseyside.
However, The Reds rode the rapids and came out on top thanks to a brilliant set piece from Trent Alexander Arnold – arguably the most unlikely goal source on the pitch.
James Milner was on hand to double the lead in the second half after a wonderfully worked move down the left-hand side culminated in him curling the ball into the far right hand corner.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a true Liverpool performance without a defensive blunder to gift the opposition a way back into the match, with Uth firing home in the last ten minutes of the game to make it a little more nervy than it needed to be.
Nonetheless, with two away goals in the bag Liverpool can head back to Anfield in good spirits ahead of the reverse leg.
Trent Alexander-Arnold continues to shine
It was another impressive performance from the young full-back, who looked completely un-phased by the pressure and expectation that came with his first start in the Champions League.
Much like his first Premier League start against Manchester United, the 18-year-old rose to the occasion well, showing no signs of nerves as he showed for the ball down the right-hand side.
The highlight was, of course, that spectacular free-kick opener. As Klopp described, Trent showed “big balls” to step up ahead of his internationally capped teammates and take on the set piece.
It’s a good thing then that he had the quality to match such confidence, curling the ball brilliantly into the bottom right corner and beyond the reach of Oliver Baumann. He also delivered a number of dangerous corners into the opposition box, with Jurgen Klopp clearly placing a lot of faith in his attacking abilities.
Completing more passes and interceptions than any of his teammates, Alexander-Arnold’s performance will only enhance the pressure on Nathaniel Clyne to as the youngster eyes a regular starting spot.
He’s got a serious future at the club.
Mignolet heroics save the day for Liverpool
When Britos bundled in a stoppage time equaliser at Vicarage Road on Saturday, some blame was attached to Mignolet for needlessly flapping at the ball and failing to show any real conviction.
However, it was very much the opposite case against Hoffenheim where the Belgian got down well to stop Andrej Kramaric from putting the home side ahead in the 11th minute after Dejan Lovren’s rash challenge.
It could’ve been a very different score-line if it weren’t for his crucial saves after some calamitous defending by those ahead of him. Well in, Migs.
Dejan Lovren has another blunder
Ah, Dejan. The Croatian hardly covered himself in glory on the opening day of the Premier League season, leaving gaping holes at the back that were dually exposed by Watford. Such was the case in Germany, too, where Lovren rashly dived in inside the box to put Liverpool immediately on the back foot.
Luckily for him Mignolet was there to let him off the hook, but it was a far from solid performance at the heart of the defence, made worse by the fact that 18-year-old Arnold looked far less assured.
Lovren must improve on his first two performances of the season if Liverpool are to progress to the group stages of the Champions League, with Hoffenheim clearly identifying him as a weak link to focus their attacking efforts on. That could well spell trouble in the reverse leg at Anfield.
Sadio Mane: Mr Magnificent
Since Mane set foot on the Anfield turf he’s been nothing short of a revelation for Liverpool. Carrying the ball forward at will and dancing past defenders with ease, he was the most dangerous player on the pitch.
Despite the midfield trio of Henderson, Can and Wijnaldum continuing to look very passive in possession with no real attacking impetus, Mane stepped forward with brilliant effect to bring home the bacon.
The speed he’s got in his locker makes him an absolute nightmare for the opposition, who are left red-faced whether they close him down instantly or sit off and give him room.
Liverpool could well have, and maybe should have, scored more goals on the night, but Mane was at the heart of everything going forward. Philippe Coutinho may not be around to pull the strings right now, but the Senegalese international continues to catch the eye.