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Liverpool 4, Hoffenheim 2 (6-3 agg.): First Thoughts

Who was nervous? Champions League is officially coming back to Anfield.

Liverpool FC v 1899 Hoffenheim - UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play-Offs Round: Second Leg Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images

Liverpool 4: Can 10’, 21’, Salah 18, Firmino 63’
Hoffenheim 2: Uth 28’, Wagner 79’

  • Pre-match Thought: It’s a weird feeling to have such a season-defining game so early in the season. But after all of our hard work last season, failure cannot be an option. I see the midfield three of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, and Georginio Wijnaldum and worry. But maybe tonight is the night they put it all together? Gini loves playing at home after all. I see Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno on the same side of defense and worry. But maybe Moreno continues his very positive early season form? But then I see our front three and think, ‘We’re going to score some damned goals.’ I’m getting a beer. And then probably another.
  • Champions League anthem! At ANFIELD! YASSSSS! More please!
  • Good Albi early, as he earns a free kick in a dangerous spot. TAA time?
  • Was it too much to expect Trent Alexander-Arnold to bury another free kick? Yes it was. But Mohamed Salah very nearly poached a goal off the deflected kick.
  • Liverpool off to a FLYING start, as Moreno, Salah, and Mane are taking turns shredding the backline on quick counters. Keep it up!
  • I predicted we’d concede early because I’m a miserable bastard who knows ETW from deep in my cold, dark spot where my heart should be. Liverpool very nearly complied with my pessimistic prediction as Hoffenheim’s Gnabry somehow skied a near point-blank effort. Was it an uncalled offside? Of course it was.
  • GOAL! EMRE CAN GET THE FUCK IN! Liverpool hit again with another quick counter. Sadio Mane is played through, and then plays it on to Can with a clever back heal. Can’s shot is on target, but deflected, wrong footing the keeper, and the Reds take a two-goal lead in the tie.
  • GOAL! Roberto Firmino is just given ALL the space on the wing. Firmino duly drives into the box, picks out Gini, whose first time shot beats the keeper but not the post. But Salah is in the perfect position to put away the—
  • GOAL! I didn’t even finish typing the last description when the Mighty Reds make it 3-0 on the night, 5-1 on aggregate, and it’s only half way through the first half. Mane, yet again is played through down the wing, and yet again plays a clever back heal to a teammate. It’s Firmino, this time, who picks out Can at the far post, and the German slams it home with a volley from point-blank range.
  • Hoffenheim nearly pull one back with a second big chance of the night. However, Mignolet was quick to come off his line, forcing Gnabry’s shot just wide of the far post.
  • Goal. Hoffenheim finally punish Liverpool’s defense. Uth is given a bit too much space on the right, and fires a low shot into the far corner. Basically, the reverse of what he did in the first leg. It has certainly been an eventful first half an hour!
  • Firmino, already with an assist, has a good chance to add his name to the score sheet, but cannot beat the keeper after Salah’s excellent move and cross.
  • Emre was inches away from his first hat trick for Liverpool. His shot from just inside the box drifted just wide of the far post. Despite the three-goal aggregate lead, Liverpool continue to be extremely dangerous.
  • Halftime Thought: European Nights at Anfield™ are back! I wonder if Julian Nagelsmann is regretting his comments about our hallowed home ground yet? That definitely was not the nervy, cagey affair I was expecting. Instead, we got two teams coming out without much of a care or concern about defending. That said, all Liverpool have to do is NOT concede three goals in the second half and we’re back in the Champions League proper. So. Please don’t concede three goals (or any, preferably).
  • Oh Gini! The Dutchman has put in a much better performance tonight than in previous outings so far this season, but just missed a great chance to extend Liverpool’s lead after being played through on goal. His shot deflected off the keeper’s shoulder and out, but did not earn the home side a corner.
  • Mane hasn’t managed to add his name to the score sheet (yet), but he’s still managing to put in a big, big performance in Red tonight. He’s been a constant threat, frequently running in behind the Hoffenheim defense, and just causing all the havoc. All of it.
  • GOAL! Jordan Henderson pounces on a soft pass along the Hoffenheim backline, nips the ball off the defender’s foot, and puts himself through on goal. Firmino was alive to the counter, and Hendo unselfishly laid it off for the Brazilian to cooly finish with his first touch. 4-1.
  • Alexander-Arnold comes off for Joe Gomez. Another good performance for the young fullback.
  • James Milner now comes on for Emre Can. The German has had a quiet second half, but his two first half goals were massive.
  • Goal. Hoffenheim haven’t had much of a look in this second half, but they managed to engineer a goal out of very little. It’s a simple cross and a simple header, and Mignolet had no chance. 4-2.
  • Sadio Mane makes way for Ragnar Klavan for the final change of the night. He gets a deserved ovation from the Anfield faithful after another fantastic performance. Sorry Phil, there’s a new Darling of the Kop.
  • Final Whistle Thought: Sit back and defend a 2-1 lead? Forget about it. Liverpool scored early and often en route to a comfortable win. It wasn’t a perfect performance—the two conceded goals can attest to that—but it was more than enough to book a spot in the Champions League. Up the Reds!

We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.

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