A first-half strike from Divock Origi gave Liverpool a strong advantage in their Europa League quarter-final with Borussia Dortmund, drawing 1-1 away.
Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Liverpool
Europa League Quarter-Final, First Leg – Westfalenstadion – Thursday 7th April 2016
Goals: Hummels 48′; Origi 36′
Ever since March’s Europa League quarter-final draw, there had been a palpable sense of excitement in both the Liverpool and Dortmund camps, as the Bundesliga giants prepared to welcome Jurgen Klopp back to his former stomping ground.
But Klopp was quick to turn the focus to matters on the field, and making just one change to the side that drew 1-1 at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday evening, the German signalled his intent.
Divock Origi came in to replace the out-of-form Daniel Sturridge, with a strong all-round lineup poised to counter the threat of Thomas Tuchel’s star-studded Dortmund side.
On his return to the Westfalenstadion, Klopp was looking for a positive result, and Origi’s strike did just that.
Setting up in a 4-3-3 formation, Liverpool looked to impose themselves early on, employing a heavy pressing game with a compact midfield setup, with an enthusiastic Emre Can receiving a yellow card within the opening 10 minutes.
The pace of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan soon posed a threat to the Liverpool defence, though both Simon Mignolet and Dejan Lovren coped well in the opening stages.
The best chance of the opening 15 minutes fell to Marco Reus, but the Germany international dragged his effort wide from outside the penalty area.
Julian Weigl, one of the two players Klopp would not have been familiar with from his time at Dortmund, carved open the Liverpool defence with a perfect pass, but Sakho made a brilliant block to deny a certain goal on the cutback.
Dejan Lovren should have put the Reds 1-0 up minutes later, with the Croatian fluffing his lines when allowed a free header from point-blank range.
Mkhitaryan then went close from outside the area, but the Armenian scuffed his shot wide of the post after a fortunate slip.
It was Liverpool who struck first, however, with Origi justifying his selection with a great goal, holding off Lukasz Piszczek on the move before slotting the ball beyond Roman Weidenfeller.
While the volume in the home stands increased, so did the Reds’ resolve, and Klopp’s side were able to hold on to half-time.
Both managers made changes at half-time, with Klopp replacing Jordan Henderson with Joe Allen, while Tuchel brought on former Reds loanee Nuri Sahin in place of Erik Durm.
This freshened up the midfield battle, but it was a Dortmund defender who made an impact early on, with Mats Hummels heading home after a well-worked corner routine, putting Tuchel’s side level at 1-1.
Hummels’ goal sparked Liverpool back into life, with only some great goalkeeping from Weidenfeller keeping Philippe Coutinho from putting the Reds back ahead on two occasions.
It remained an open game with both sides working hard all over the pitch beyond the hour mark, and both Sakho and Lovren needed to stay strong in defence as Hummels pulled the strings from deep, almost setting Reus free on 63 minutes.
Liverpool’s gameplan switched to sending long balls up to Origi in attack, with the Belgian performing selflessly in holding up play, but the Reds struggled to offer him support on the break.
Klopp looked to address this by sending Roberto Firmino on for Adam Lallana, with the No. 11 making his return from a hamstring injury, while he brought on Sturridge 10 minutes later, with the star striker replacing Origi.
This did little to change the dynamic, with a strong defensive display from the Reds ensuring Origi’s first-half strike made the difference at full-time.
TIA Man of the Match: Divock Origi
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Bender (Sokratis 76′), Hummels, Schmelzer; Castro, Weigl; Durm (Sahin 46′), Mkhitaryan, Reus; Aubameyang (Pulisic 76′)
Substitutes: Burki, Sahin, Ginter, Leitner, Pulisic, Sokratis, Kagawa
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno; Henderson (Allen 46′), Can; Milner, Lallana (Firmino 77′), Coutinho; Origi (Sturridge 84′)
Substitutes: Ward, Toure, Smith, Allen, Ibe, Firmino, Sturridge