Hoffenheim 1-2 Liverpool
Champions League Play Off, First Leg; Rhein-Neckar-Arena
August 15, 2017
Goals: Alexander-Arnold (’35), Nordtveit OG (’74); Uth (87)
Simon Mignolet (out of 10) – 8
Mignolet took some flack for his involvement in Watford‘s goals on Saturday, but how crucial could his role here be?
The Belgian saved another penalty (his seventh for LFC), and also made a crucial save from Serge Gnabry before half-time.
He is producing more big moments than he used to.
What a night for the Reds’ most exciting youngster in years.
On his first ever European appearance, the 18-year-old cut a calm, composed figure, and then opened the scoring with a stunning free-kick. Pace, power and quality down the right flank – what a talent.
Didn’t cover himself in glory for Hoffenheim’s goal, though, not playing to the whistle.
Joel Matip – 7
Matip has been questioned a little of late, but he was improved against the Bundesliga outfit, despite the odd lapse here and there.
One excellent clearance in the first-half cleared the danger, and his use of the ball was much better than at Vicarage Road.
Dejan Lovren – 4
Sometimes you feel Lovren gets unnecessary criticism, then he performs this poorly. That was the case at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, with some hapless defensively threatening to send Liverpool home empty-handed.
He conceded the penalty that Mignolet saved, which was minutes after an awful sliding challenge out wide. He was generally the erratic figure we see so often.
Denied at the other end after a powerful header, but this again showed the need for Virgil van Dijk (or anyone) to replace him.
Alberto Moreno – 5.5
Moreno kept his place ahead of James Milner at left-back, but it was a mostly poor performance from him.
His much-publicised defensive shortcomings were all too apparent – he did badly in the lead-up to Hoffenheim’s penalty – and his communication with Lovren seemed poor. Perhaps he’d be better with a better left sided centre-back alongside him.
He did offer some attacking thrusts with his pace, in fairness.
Jordan Henderson – 5
It is easy to forget that Henderson has only played two competitive games since February, and he again looked off the pace in Germany.
He produced a few good passes, but he panicked in possession on occasions and didn’t give the defence great cover.
Left the pitch in the second-half after seeming like his movement wasn’t ideal throughout. The injury looks like he’ll never be 100% recovered.
Emre Can – 7
Can will have more influential displays in a Liverpool shirt, but his commitment could not be questioned and he generally looked reliable.
While others were tiring late on, he continued to get up and down the pitch, and his more gritty side shone through when the Reds were wobbling. Probably better as the holding midfielder than Henderson.
Gini Wijnaldum – 6.5
Liverpool’s Mr Under-the-radar was his usual self. Sometimes anonymous, sometimes quietly effective.
At times, it would be nice to see more from the Netherlands international away from home, but he knits things together with clever, thoughtful play on and off the ball.
Mohamed Salah – 7
The Reds’ new signing doesn’t look at his sharpest just yet, but he is already offering so much in the final third for Jurgen Klopp.
The 25-year-old missed a great chance to make it 1-0 when clean-through, but a bad touch let him down, but he did well on the whole.
Needs to work on his right foot, which is bordering on non-existent. He should have bured two on his right here.
Sadio Mane – 8.5
A magnificent performance from Liverpool’s most important player. That includes Philippe Coutinho (controversial, I know).
Mane was an incredibly dangerous from the first whistle until his late substitution, showing electrifying pace, quick feet and good movement.
How much of a bargain does £30 million look now? Man of the Match.
Roberto Firmino – 7.5
It wasn’t always the most polished of nights from Firmino, but as is always the case, he led the line effectively and never stopped running.
The 25-year-old missed a glorious chance to double Liverpool’s lead early in the second-half, once again highlighting why he isn’t considered a top class finisher, but he improved as the match went on.
How do some not see what he offers the team?
James Milner (on for Henderson ’63) – 7
Brought on in place of the injured-looking Henderson, Milner started recklessly but then had a major say in the second goal, finding the net from out wide via a deflection. Effective.
Dominic Solanke (on for Firmino ’84 ) – n/a
The youngster held the ball up well a couple of times, but didn’t have time to affect things.
Marko Gujic (on for Mane ’89) – n/a
No time to really make an impact, but did see a decent effort saved in the dying minutes.
Jurgen Klopp – 7
After taking a little flack of late, Klopp will be delighted with this result, away to a strong home side.
The German made no changes to the team that drew at Watford, and it was hard to complain about the decision. He must be wondering about Lovren and Moreno, though, who were loose cannons throughout.
Klopp has to shoulder the blame for some of the panic in the Liverpool defence – he will only be too aware how much he needs Van Dijk.
A much better night for the Reds boss.