Liverpool has taken a huge step towards the group stages of the Champions League after beating Hoffenheim 2-1 in the first leg of the playoff round at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena. Jurgen Klopp’s men were on the back foot for large periods of the game, but two goals from Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner were enough to give the Reds a crucial away win.
The game started with a high tempo, with both teams looking to get on the front foot early on. However, it was Hoffenheim who looked the more dangerous side in the opening exchanges, with their pressing game causing Liverpool all sorts of problems. The home side created a number of half-chances but were unable to convert any of them, with Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet making a number of crucial saves to keep the Reds in the game.
Despite Hoffenheim’s early dominance, it was Liverpool who took the lead on 35 minutes through a stunning free-kick from 18-year-old right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold. The youngster, making just his second Champions League appearance, curled a beautiful shot over the Hoffenheim wall and into the top corner to give the Reds a vital away goal.
Hoffenheim responded well to going behind, with former Leicester City striker Andrej Kramaric looking particularly lively in attack. The Croatian forward had a number of chances to level the scores, but he was unable to convert any of them, with Mignolet standing firm in the Liverpool goal.
The second half started with Hoffenheim looking to take the game to Liverpool, but they were once again unable to find a way past Mignolet. Liverpool grew into the game as the second half progressed and they doubled their lead on 74 minutes through James Milner. The former England international, who was captain for the night, slotted the ball past Oliver Baumann in the Hoffenheim goal after a well-worked move involving Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
Hoffenheim continued to press forward in search of a goal, and they finally got one on 87 minutes through Mark Uth. The German forward, who had come on as a substitute just minutes earlier, fired a low shot past Mignolet to give Hoffenheim a glimmer of hope heading into the second leg.
Despite the late goal, Liverpool held on to secure a crucial win in Germany. Klopp’s men will now head back to Anfield for the second leg with a one-goal advantage, knowing that a clean sheet will be enough to see them through to the group stages of the Champions League.
Overall, it was a solid performance from Liverpool, who showed great resilience in the face of Hoffenheim’s intense pressing game. The Reds will be pleased with the way they executed their game plan, with the midfield trio of Emre Can, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Jordan Henderson doing an excellent job of shielding the back four.
There were also standout performances from Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner. Alexander-Arnold’s stunning free-kick was the highlight of the game, and the youngster showed great composure throughout the match. Milner, meanwhile, put in a typically tireless display in midfield and capped off his performance with a well-taken goal.
For Hoffenheim, it was a frustrating evening. The home side dominated possession and created a number of chances, but they were unable to convert them into goals. The loss leaves them with a mountain to climb in the second leg, but they will take heart from the fact that they were able to breach Liverpool’s defense late on.
Overall, Liverpool will be delighted with their performance and will look to build on this result heading into the second leg. Klopp’s men will know that they cannot afford to be complacent, but they will be