Liverpool head into the second leg of their UEFA Champions League qualifier against Hoffenheim with a one goal lead and the all-important away goal.
Hoffenheim began their debut appearance in the Champions League by taking the game to their illustrious opponents and five-time winners of this competition.
Important clearances by Jöel Matip and Trent Alexander-Arnold in the 6th minute prevented an early lead and Moreno, as well as Lovren, were found wanting in the opening onslaught by the hosts with Lovren nearly conceding a handball inside the box. Mané had a shot on goal saved around the 10-minute mark.
Lovren conceded a penalty given by the assistant behind the goal line. Poor penalty but full credit to Mignolet for holding his ground to save down the middle. Liverpool a tad impatient with unsuccessful balls through the middle not reaching a white shirt.
Salah wasted a golden opportunity in the 15th minute with a run through the middle latching on to Firmino’s brilliant ball but was not fast enough and under pressure from Vogt put the ball wide of goal.
Both teams were moving the ball quickly but lacked composure in the final third to conjure goal scoring chances. However, the game slowed down after a breath-taking opening quarter of an hour with the game confined more to midfield.
Hoffenheim conceded a free kick in the 33rd minute for a pull on Mané just as he was racing clear on goal. 18-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold bamboozled everyone with a terrific strike to put Liverpool up 1-0.
Coutinho’s expertise at free kicks was hardly missed. Two mins later Can tried a long ranger following a counter but it was straight at the goalie.
Mignolet again came to Liverpool’s rescue in the 42nd minute following a botched clearance and Wagner missed the follow-up by the narrowest of margins.
Firmino was at his creative best at the other end to put Mané through but his shot was well blocked.
Further chances came and went for both teams, with Lovren coming closest to increasing the Reds lead but the score remained 1-0 to Liverpool at the break.
In the second half, Hoffenheim started out in the same way and Moreno had to make a crucial clearance in the 1st minute of the second half to prevent the imminent danger.
Almost immediately, Firmino missed a great chance made possible by Mané’s pace with the goalie making a terrific save.
Back at the other end, Gnabry thought he had converted a great chance and equalised only for the offside flag to be rightly raised. In the 50th minute, some brilliant footwork by Mané resulted in another chance but to no avail.
Liverpool’s defence was always looking shaky under relentless pressure but somehow hung on. Alexander Arnold got a yellow card for protesting a throw-in.
The first change from the Reds saw Henderson replaced by James Milner. Mo Salah again had a chance to increase the lead in the 69th minute after Hoffenheim gave the ball away, but Baumann saved well.
Mané was a constant menace with his pace and continuously won free kicks. From one such quickly taken free kick, great vision by Firmino to find Milner on the left saw the Englishman score a brilliant goal by bending the ball beyond Baumann’s far post to put Liverpool ahead 2-0 up in the 74th minute.
Hoffenheim were by now a frustrated bunch and soon lost shape which ensured Liverpool maintained complete control of proceedings from thereon.
Another brilliant save by Mignolet in the 81st minute after some more switching off by Liverpool preserved the two goal lead.
Mané and Salah combined again for another Liverpool chance but Mané blazed over in the 83rd minute. Soon after that Dom Solanke entered the fray for Roberto Firmino who departed to warm applause from both Liverpool and Hoffenheim supporters.
Hoff substitute Uth latched on to a ball over the top and drilled a late goal to put his team back in the tie. Alexander Arnold, who had such a good game until then, was caught napping and was looking for the offside flag to rescue him.
Grujic came on for Mané soon after. Hoffenheim piled on the pressure in the closing stages and with four minutes of time being added on, Liverpool were left to the mercy of Hübner who headed over unmarked. More chaos followed in the Liverpool half.
In the end, Liverpool just about hung on for the vital away win. For the Reds, Mané and Firmino were fantastic throughout and along with TAA, they were the standout Reds performers.