Liverpool 4-2 Hoffenheim (6-3 on aggregate): Reds sail into Champions League proper after early blitz

Liverpool have reached the Champions League group stages for the first time in three seasons with a 6-3 aggregate win over Hoffenheim

Liverpool 4-2 Hoffenheim (6-3 on aggregate): Reds sail into Champions League proper after early blitz
Above: Roberto Firmino celebrating his goal in the 4-2 win over Hoffenheim | Photo: Getty Images/John Powell
LIVERPOOL
4 2
HOFFENHEIM
LIVERPOOL : MIGNOLET, ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (GOMEZ, MIN. 64), MATIP, LOVREN, MORENO, WIJNALDUM, HENDERSON, CAN (MILNER, MIN. 69), SALAH, FIRMINO, MANE (KLAVAN, MIN. 87)
HOFFENHEIM : BAUMANN, NORDTVEIT (UTH, MIN. 24), VOGT, HUBNER, KADERABEK (TOLJAN, MIN. 63), GEIGER, DEMIRBAY, ZUBER, GNABRY (SZALAI, MIN. 55), KRAMARIC, WAGNER
SCORE: 1-0, MIN. 10, CAN 2-0, MIN. 18, SALAH 3-0, MIN. 21, CAN 3-1, MIN. 27, UTH
REFEREE: DANIELE ORSATO BOOKED GEIGER (MIN. 29) UTH (MIN. 32) KADERABEK (MIN. 36) HENDERSON (MIN. 45+0)

Liverpool comfortably secured their place in the group stages of this season's Champions League, as goals from Emre Can, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino gave them a 4-2 win over Hoffenheim on the night and a 6-3 victory on aggregate. 

It was quite the spectacle in the first-half on Merseyside as Sadio Mané and Serge Gnabry came close before goals from Can and Salah saw the tie all but done and dusted, Mark Uth made things interesting as he pulled one back for the Germans but a close effort from Firmino showed the Reds still had goals in them going into the break. 

The second period certainly to prove to be a slow burner with the home side having a few nibbles at goal before Firmino added their fourth and final goal. Sandro Wagner got another back for the visitors but the night belonged to the Reds. 

 

 

Settling those nerves 

The atmosphere was special inside Anfield as it hosted Champions League football for the first time since 2014, despite the result in Germany last week the job was still not done for Jürgen Klopp's men and the opening ten minutes proved to be end-to-end stuff. 

It was club top scorer Mané who tested the waters after only four minutes, the Senegalese did well to get behind the defence and go one-on-one with Oliver Baumann and the 'keeper did well to block the effort. 

Hoffenheim knew going to Merseyside that they needed two goals to take the tie but were dominated early on by their English opponents, yet showed they still had some fight in them as they came close in the seventh minute. Julian Nagelsmann's men showed some fluid football as they tore Liverpool apart on the left, the ball fizzed into the middle for Gnabry who somehow blazed it wide - his blushes spared as the flag was raised for offside. 

 

 

Delivering a triple blow 

It was a stellar start to the proceedings from the Reds and a goal seemed inevitable, but no Liverpool fan inside the ground will have expected three goals inside 11 minutes to all but secure their passage into the group stages. 

The first arrived on the ten-minute mark and once again it was from the excellence of Mané, the winger was again behind the defence but looked to have been held up by Kevin Vogt. Mané's initiative proved the winner as his excellent back-heel was straight into Can, whose effort was helped into bottom corner by a deflection off Håvard Nordtveit

The second arrived eight minutes later and once again it was an excellent piece of football from Klopp's men. Firmino showed his Brazilian flair as he wriggled his way into the area before teeing it off for Georginio Wijnaldum. The Dutchman's effort came back off the left-hand post, with Egyptian Salah the quickest to react to tap home his second Liverpool goal in front of a home crowd. 

The tie was theoretically tied up three minutes later after Can added his second of the night. 

The Reds' fluid football reached it's peak as Wijnaldum played a wonderful through ball to Mané following a graceful touch from Firnino. The winger again raced forward and played a clever back-heel to Firmino who was making the overlap, he floated the ball to the far post where Can was waiting to side-foot his volley into the corner. 

 

 

Work to be done

After the third goal went in it seemed that Klopp's side had switched off slightly, a change at the back for Hoffenheim seemed to make the difference as they managed to get one back before the half-hour mark.

Uth was brought on as a replacement for Nordtveit and he was waiting in the wings as he was slipped through on the left-hand side, he scored last week after coming off the bench and was at it again as he slotted it into the far corner following poor play from Dejan Lovren. 

That scare seemed to kick Liverpool into life and the hostsshould have arguably added a fourth in the 36th minute. It was brilliant from Trent Alexander-Arnold as he received a switch and passed it off with a first-time touch into the path of Salah, who put in a dangerous cross into the near post where Firmino was in waiting, his effort blocked by Baumann.

 

 

Firmino nets deserved goal

The second period didn't start with the same intensity as the first but it was still Liverpool that were proving dangerous with some half-chances, and their passage into the group stages of Europe's elite competition was all but sealed as they added a fourth in the 63rd minute. 

It was excellent from the skipper Jordan Henderson as he closed down the poor backpass to Vogt and dispossessed his opposite skipper, the midfielder was baring down on goal before he unselfishly rolled it across to Firmino to strike home. 

 

 

Coming away with a consolation 

The 4-1 scoreline was slightly flattering to a Liverpool side that still looked prone to error's at the back, and the small contingent from Bavaria was given something to cheer as they grabbed a consolation goal. 

It was good play from the Bundesliga side as Andrej Kramarić whipped in a delightful cross for Wagner, the striker exposed Liverpool's weak defence as he rose above Dejan Lovren to head home. 

That proved to be the final significant act of the game, no more goals on a night full of them.