For only the third time in seven attempts this season, Liverpool advance in a cup competition without needing extra time, penalties or a replay. As indicative as that statistic is of the bluntness of the Reds' attack, and as well as it fits into the narrative of a team missing match winners, this tie never really looked like it should have ended 1-0 on aggregate. With Daniel Sturridge again returning to the front line, Liverpool were rampant at times, and created plenty of big chances to put their German opponents away.
Opportunities came and went for Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson, with weak finishing or excellent goalkeeping from Marwin Hitz keeping them all out, and in the end, advancement came down to a James Milner penalty.
Jürgen Klopp was happy to advance, and satisfied with the performance his players put in:
"Over 70 minutes we were that good that we couldn’t see their plan. Then at the end they had the long balls and could change [Raul] Bobadilla and a few other players, strikers.
"The free-kicks were the biggest challenge for us. But it was a really good game and it was absolutely deserved; everybody who saw the game would have to say we deserved to win and were the better team and created chances.
"We only had one problem – we didn’t use them and score often enough. That’s how football is sometimes. For us, it’s still a long way and the only problem was we couldn’t control the game in the last 20 minutes.
"But now, after the game, with a 1-0, I am completely fine. As far as I know, there are no injuries. It was hard, that’s how it should be, and now we are in the next round – well deserved."
The clean sheet was only under threat a few times on the night, most harrowingly when deputising centre-back Lucas Leiva played a loose backpass towards Simon Mignolet that Caiuby picked up, but that the Brazilian striker failed to convert in the end. Lucas, who looked so accomplished in the position against Aston Villa a little over a week ago, struggled at times against the Germans, but Klopp insisted he was pleased with his least samba-inclined Brazilian, explaining his inclusion thusly:
"I knew we had to play more football from the last line; Kolo has a lot of quality and skills but the first one is not that he always wants to play.
"Against deep defending we needed in nearly all positions a player who wants to play a pass. Not the last pass from the last line but with passing skills. That was one thing.
"The other thing was that Kolo did really well and played great for us but has a lot of games now in his legs. Lucas was waiting and everybody could see he played this role really well.
"I’m really pleased for him. It’s not too easy for Lucas when he doesn’t play, he’s a different person! Everything is OK but it’s not easy for him to enjoy life when he’s not playing. So he deserved this game and I’m really pleased for him."
Heart-warming stuff, but one would hope Lucas can be a different person with a better performance the next time around.
The draw for the round of 16 is on Friday at 1PM CET/8AM EST, and there are no seeding protocols or country restrictions, which means that Liverpool might very well face Tottenham, Manchester United or Gary Neville's Valencia, among other quality European sides. After that, it's on towards the League Cup final at the weekend. Brace yourselves!