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Liverpool 1, Augsburg 0: Wasteful Reds Advance

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The best moment of the night might have been when the referee blew the match to a close and fans worldwide could exhale.

While Liverpool were in control throughout, the underlying fear of a late collapse made a 1-0 win and Europa League knockout round advancement quite stressful.

Liverpool went ahead after five minutes, although they probably didn't deserve to. Dominik Kohr rose to meet a cross and made incidental, minimal contact on the ball with his hand. But it was deemed enough for a penalty and James Milner converted the ensuing spot kick with ease.

In hindsight, after watching Liverpool struggle to convert chances for the remainder of the game, that early penalty could very well have been the difference between advancing and crashing out. It allowed the team to play in a free-flowing manner and hold possession to kill off significant time.

The attacking trio of Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, and Daniel Sturridge impressed once again. Even though they have not played as a collective unit very often, there was still a natural understanding between them. Each player displayed phenomenal movement and a willingness to link up with others.

But there was no finishing touch for the Reds, despite numerous chances created. Sturridge, Coutinho and Jordan Henderson had clear-cut opportunities but were kept out by Marwin "Greatest" Hitz, and on one occasion, the post.

There were times when Augsburg almost made Liverpool pay for their wastefulness. Lucas, playing center back, gave away possession in the 35th minute with an atrocious back pass that left Simon Mignolet at the mercy of Caiuby. The Brazilian attacker dribbled too wide, though, and his effort from a narrowed angle bounced harmlessly out of play with Mamadou Sakho racing back to protect the goal.

In the 86th minute, an Augsburg ground cross into the danger area nearly ended in disaster for the hosts, but the ball was cleared after a moment of desperation. Two minutes later Augsburg went inches over the bar with a free kick that had Mignolet beat.

Jürgen Klopp's men hung on, however, and that's all that matters at the end of the day. It was a pleasant if anxious match to watch, and Liverpool are on to the round of 16. Even better, the team managed to stay healthy ahead of the weekend's League Cup final against Manchester City. Onward and upward, as they say.

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