Liverpool sealed their place in the group stage of the Champions League on Wednesday night with an utterly ruthless attacking performance seeing off a resolute Hoffenheim side 4-2, with an aggregate score of 6-3.
Here are some observations from the match.
Mané runs the show…again
If you needed any further proof that Sadio Mané is Liverpool’s most important player, this was it. The Senegalese international was a constant menace to Hoffenheim, particularly in the first forty-five when his quick feet and movement in between the lines allowed Liverpool to get themselves on the front foot with an early goal.
Always looking to make something happen and bring the best out in his teammates, Mané is now the key cog in this Liverpool side – without him, the system fails to function.
A pre-season injury to Adam Lallana followed by a transfer saga with Philippe Coutinho in which the player has gone on strike have hit Liverpool’s midfield options hard.
The two players are at the heart of the side’s creativity, with the resulting trio of Henderson, Wijnaldum and Can often failing to deliver in the same regard and producing very pedestrian, turgid football in the middle of the park.
If that’s the usual case for the trio, this was a story like no other. All of Can, Henderson and Wijnaldum performed seamlessly as a unit, flying into tackles to win the ball back for the team while displaying a far greater willingness and freedom to move forward with the ball.
Having started the season poorly with a string of ghost-like displays, Wijnaldum stepped up when the team needed him the most. His box-to-box play ensured Liverpool kept ticking over and recycling any and all attacking moves.
However, it was Emre Can that stood out the most. Scoring two goals was the cream on the cake in a thoroughly impressive and bullish performance from the German. Using his physicality to barge through the opposition midfield, Can gave an attacking spark from deep that had been lacking in recent games.
At the other end of the pitch, he was equally impressive, fighting hard to win possession back and prevent Hoffenheim from having too much joy.
Bobby’s Brazilian Brilliance
His international compatriot may have been missing, but Bobby Firmino was in full flow against his former club, leading the line superbly as Liverpool’s new No.9.
Producing the type of ball we’re used to seeing from Coutinho, Firmino split open Hoffenheim’s defence time and time again while showcasing his flair with some touches of the finest order.
Playing in Mané for the opener before getting a well-deserved goal of his own for a brilliant performance, Firmino was at the heart of Liverpool’s successes on Wednesday night.
He embodies a Klopp type of player, leading from the front with the first line of defence. While not a natural striker, Firmino is another key member of this team.
Lovren with another howler
Everyone knows centre-back is the weakest position in this Liverpool team, and it was particularly evident on Wednesday.
Despite a pretty solid defensive performance on the whole, Dejan Lovren took his foot off the gas in the second half as Liverpool shipped 2 goals to intensify the pressure in the latter quarter of the game.
The Croatian’s lazy pass back allowed Mark Uth through on goal to give the away side a lifeline back into the match. Later, with the score at 4-1, Lovren was easily beaten in the air by Wagner.
The 28-year-old is capable of delivering solid performances but lacks the level of consistency needed to be the prime centre-back at a club like Liverpool. It’s long been a case of one too many mistakes from Lovren and such antics could’ve cost the team dearly on another day.
Van Dijk would be a more than welcome addition at Anfield.