Liverpool beat FC Augsburg 1-0 in the second-leg of their last 32 Europa League clash on Thursday, with James Milner‘s early penalty sending the Reds through.
Liverpool 1-0 FC Augsburg
Europa League – Anfield – Thursday 25th February 2016
Goals: Milner pen (5)
Jurgen Klopp made just one change to the side that drew 0-0 in Germany last night, with injury problems finally beginning to ease for the German.
Lucas Leiva came in for Kolo Toure, which meant the 29-year-old was again used as a centre-back, as was the case at West Ham in the FA Cup.
Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana all missed out through injury, while Christian Benteke once again had to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench.
A place in the Europa League last 16 was up for grabs, with Liverpool the resounding favourites to progress.
Caiuby missed an excellent chance to open the scoring within the opening minute for the visitors, but the striker blasted his effort into the Kop. It was an early alarm for the Reds.
In the fourth minute, Liverpool were awarded a penalty by referee Clement Turpin, following a handball by Dominik Kohr. Milner tucked it away with consummate ease. The perfect start for Klopp’s men.
Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge both had efforts on goal soon after, as Liverpool came flying out of the traps in the first 20 minutes.
Philippe Coutinho almost doubled the lead midway through the first-half, following lovely link-up play with Sturridge, and Nathaniel Clyne drilled a shot wide. There was some wonderful football being played.
Simon Mignolet produced his first save of the night to deny Kostas Stafylidis, while at the other end, Firmino’s close-range effort was kept out by Marwin Hitz. Coutinho also tested the Augsburg goalkeeper.
Lucas got away with a sloppy backpass, with Caiuby failing to convert from a tight angle, and it was a warning sign that showed Liverpool couldn’t afford to take their foot off the gas.
Sturridge hit the post from a Coutinho cut-back shortly before half-time, and it was the last chance of what was an excellent 45 minutes from the Reds.
There were no changes to either team at the interval, as Liverpool looked to kick on and kill the tie off as a contest.
Coutinho attempted an audacious half-volley shortly after the restart, and Sturridge then missed a glorious chance, dragging his right-footed finish just wide. It was relentless stuff.
Things did start getting a little nervy, however, as the realisation dawned that one Augsburg goal would send Liverpool out of the Europa League. The fizz disappeared from the hosts’ game a little.
Coutinho fired a trademark whipped shot wide just after the hour mark, and a few minutes later, Divock Origi replaced a rather unhappy Sturridge.
The 26-year-old had done very well on the night, but Klopp is clearly being cautious in terms of not overplaying him.
Mignolet did really well to deny the on-rushing Tobias Werner with 20 minutes left on the clock, as the tension continued to grow inside Anfield. Ja-Cheol Koo fired into the Anfield Road end.
Henderson had a glorious chance to make it 2-0, but his finish was too close to Hitz, while Joao Teixeira replaced the excellent Coutinho in the 79th minute.
Jan Morawek missed the target with snap-shot, and Alexander Esswein very nearly pounced and Stafylidis’ free-kick missed by inches.
It was a horrendously nervy end to the game, but Liverpool hung on and qualified for the last 16. Now onto Sunday.
TIA Man of the Match: Philippe Coutinho
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Lucas, Sakho, Moreno, Can, Henderson, Milner, Coutinho (Teixeira 79′), Firmino, Sturridge (Origi 66′).
Subs not used: Ward, Toure, Benteke, Smith, Chirivella
FC Augsburg: Hitz, Verhaegh, Janker (Parker 89′), Klavan, Stafylidis, Kohr, Esswein, Koo, Altintop, Werner (Bobadilla 72′), Caiuby.
Subs not used: Manninger, Opare, Moravek, Max, Rieder
Referee: Clement Turpin (FRA)
Liverpool 1-0 Ausgburg
Report: Milner penalty sends Reds through to last 16
Reactions: “Job done, on to Wembley…”
Ratings: Coutinho takes top marks
Klopp: “Absolutely deserved”
Presser: Watch in full here