It became an occasion to savour last night for Liverpool fans up and down the land as their scintillating Reds secured a spot in the coveted Champions League Group Stages for the first time in three years, restoring their rightful place amongst the European elite. Jurgen Klopp’s men were at their brilliant best from the start, producing a magnificent attacking display to stun play-off hopefuls, Hoffenheim 4-2, with three goals in the opening twenty minutes to send the bellowing Anfield faithful into overdrive.
Having held a narrow 2-1 advantage from the opening leg in Germany, Liverpool were keen to assert their dominance swiftly in front of a raucous home crowd, and it wasn’t long before their devastating attacking trio began to unsettle the visitors. Liverpool were again without their treasured talisman, Philippe Coutinho, who was unavailable through illness but it proved immaterial with Messrs Mane, Firmino and Salah providing a dazzling display throughout to put the hosts in complete control of the tie.
And it took only 10 minutes for the Reds to break the deadlock with midfield maestro, Emre Can, slotting home a deflected effort from close-range after an intricate back-heel pass from the pervasive Sadio Mane found the German in space.
Liverpool continued to flood forward with purpose, and the hosts quickly added a second when superb summer signing, Mohammed Salah, reacted quickest to a fortunate rebound to head past a hapless Oliver Baumann.
Relentless in their pursuit of the all-important Champions League spot, Jurgen Klopp’s men refused to sit back, having already raced into a two goal lead. The Reds added a fantastic third on the 21 minute mark, courtesy of the industrious Can, who stroked home after some splendid work from Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian playmaker, who spent four years at Hoffenheim, had started the move from within his own half, trading passes with Mane before surging down the left hand side to deliver an effortless cross to meet his German counterpart, triggering an ecstatic response from the rapturous home crowd.
That was the moment that sparked frenzied celebrations from manager, Klopp, who punched the punched the air in delight as he closed in on his famed return to the Champions League.
Hoffenheim, who finished fourth last season in the Bundesliga, did not lose their optimism however, and struck back with a goal from Mark Uth in the 29th minute, but it appeared to be a mere consolation.
A goal from the visitors certainly did not perturb Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. The colourful German, who led Bundesliga side, Borussia Dortmund to the final in 2013, remained adamant that his side maintained their attacking vigour after the break, and their efforts were soon rewarded midway through the second half, as Firmino put the tie beyond doubt with a close-range tap in, following a commanding run from Captain Jordan Henderson.
Despite a spirited final 20 minutes and a second consolation goal from Sandro Wagner, Hoffenheim had been resigned to defeat even from the early stages. Having adopted a hazardous high line in the first half that saw the German side concede three in such quick succession, manager Julian Nagelsmann’s decision to throw such caution to the wind will have undoubtedly attracted heavy scrutiny. But credit must go to Liverpool’s front three, whose devastating pace and energy could, on tonight’s evidence, unhinge even the most composed defensive sides.
It was a job well done in the Liverpool camp and the Reds, along with Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United now await to discover their group stage opponents in tonight’s Champions League draw (17:00 BST).
Man of the Match – Emre Can
The diligent German midfielder shone from the off, grabbing the all-important opening goal thanks to his clever movement and lightening reactions. He posed as a constant threat for the visitors and his willingness to attack the space paid great dividends as he grabbed his second of the night to put Liverpool in cruise control. His performance earned him a standing ovation from the home faithful in the 70th minute. Well deserved.
2 – Emre Can has scored 2+ goals in a game for the first time in his professional career. Brace. pic.twitter.com/58sAXO96Gd
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 23, 2017
Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson, was immensely proud of his team’s performance, and looks forward to the imminent Champions League Draw:
“It has been a brilliant night – the atmosphere was brilliant all night and we were brilliant at the start and set the tempo.
“We let in a couple of goals so we have still got things to work on but overall we’re delighted to get back into the Champions League where Liverpool belong.
“Now we have got to do ourselves justice and win some games there.
“We’re in there and we’ve proved we can play against big teams. We’re happy to play against whoever we’re drawn against.”
The excitement doesn’t stop here for avid Reds’ fans; Liverpool v Arsenal at Anfield takes place this weekend on Sunday 27th August (16:00 BST).
To enjoy all of Liverpool’s games in true style, make sure to savour the very finest Liverpool Hospitality Packages on a match day. Eventmasters take great pride in providing official Football Hospitality Packages for the Premier League’s most prestigious teams. Make it a match day to remember at your favourite football arena.
Jordan Henderson interview quote taken from BBC Sport