Liverpool win first leg, but Hoffenheim grab late lifeline | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 15.08.2017
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Liverpool win first leg, but Hoffenheim grab late lifeline

Liverpool have beaten Hoffenheim 2-1 in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier and will take a narrow lead and two away goals back to Anfield. Still, a late Hoffenheim strike offers hope for the second leg.

Hoffenheim 1 - 2 Liverpool 
(Goals: Uth 87' -- Alexander-Arnold 35', Milner 74')

Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena, Sinsheim

Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool narrowly got the better of Julian Nagelsmann's Hoffenheim in Germany's southwest on Tuesday, but the Bundesliga side will take some hope back to Anfield after pulling within reach in the closing minutes of the match. 

It was Hoffenheim who had the early chance to take the lead, after Serge Gnabry nutmegged Dejan Lovren and won a penalty. Andrej Kramaric's poor spot kick was easy pickings for Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet in the end. 

Fußball Champions League Qualifikation TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs. Liverpool FC Tor 0:2 (Reuters/R. Orlowski)

Milner's deflected goal looked to have put the tie to bed, until Hoffenheim struck back

Hoffenheim enjoyed the lion's share of possession, with Liverpool seemingly content to play relatively direct counterattacking football when on the ball. What was telling was quality in the final third: Sadio Mané and Mo Salah's pace and trickery often proved too much for Hoffenheim's back line. And so it was when Mané skinned Ermin Bicakcic and broke free, forcing the center back to pull the winger's shirt and concede a free kick in shooting distance around 10 minutes before the break. Of all people, 18-year-old right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold curled the free kick into the top corner. 

Liverpool's second goal was something of a lucky punch. Second-half sub James Milner had time to pick his target for a cross, but the delivery was deflected off Havard Nordtveit and straight into Oliver Baumann's top corner. 

For a time, Hoffenheim appeared set to take nothing back to Anfield despite a strong showing in front of their home fans. Sub Mark Uth was on hand to salvage a glimmer of hope, brilliantly controlling a long ball from Nordtveit, turning on goal and firing home from the edge of the box. 

Hoffenheim are bidding to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in the club's history. While Tuesday's game was the club's first ever fixture in the competition, it was Liverpool's 364th, if you include European Cup matches of old.

Fußball Champions League Qualifikation TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs. Liverpool FC (Reuters/R. Orlowski)

Despite the victory, Klopp had plenty to discuss with his players, especially those towards the back

You can re-read our play-by-play account of the match below, in reverse chronological order.

FULL TIME. Hoffenheim 1-2 Liverpool. 
(Goals: Alexander-Arnold 35', Milner 74' -- Uth 87')

90+4' -- Surely Baumann's last save of the night, denying sub Grujic's deflected shot.

90+3' -- It's as if Liverpool have a "retreat into shell and panic" button, pressed by some meddlesome gremlin after around 85 minutes in each game. They're just weathering the late storm now.

90+1' -- Hübner heads over from a set piece. Yet again, Mignolet fumes at his defense. That may have been the chance.

90+1' -- Four additional minutes. The crowd smell an equalizer.

88' -- Sub Liverpool: Marko Grujic comes on for Sadio Mané, who at times tonight tortured the Hoffenheim defense.

87' -- GOAL! A lifeline for Hoffenheim! 2-1 Liverpool. Substitute Mark Uth did brilliantly to chest down a crossfield ball, then fired past Mignolet from the edge of the box. Bang goes Liverpool's clean sheet, and again they concede one late.

Fußball Champions League Qualifikation TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs. Liverpool FC Torjubel Anschluss 1:2 (Imago/Nordphoto/Fabisch)

Mark Uth (r.) just kept Hoffenheim in with a shout, and Sandro Wagner knows it

84' -- Youngster Dominic Solanke - just arrived on a free from Chelsea - gets a taste of Champions League action, replacing Hoffenheim old-boy Roberto Firmino. Firmino was quiet against his old mates tonight.

83' -- Mané misses a golden chance to bury the match on the break. Lost his footing as he went to shoot, firing wide of Baumann's goal. 

81' --  Big save from Simon Mignolet. Full-back Pavel Kaderabek had got forward once again, but the Belgian keeper was quick to get down and parry it away. 

74' -- GOAL!! 2-0 Liverpool. Sub James Milner scores with a big slice of luck. What looked like an in-swinging cross took a deflection off Nordtveit, and curled into Baumann's top corner. That leaves Hoffenheim really needing at least one goal to take to Anfield with them.

72' -- Hoffenheim under the kosh of late - two big saves from Oliver Baumann, one denying Mané one-on-one.

66' -- Gnabry rifles a volley miles over the bar. Hoffenheim are in a real quandary here. They're making headway on the attack, but push too many up and Salah, Mané and Firmino would be delighted to punish them on the break.

65' -- Three corners in the last three minutes for Hoffenheim. Not music to Liverpool fans' ears these days. But all three were dealt with, albeit rather shakily in the case of the second and third ones.

63' -- Sub Liverpool: captain Jordan Henderson makes way for vice captain James Milner. Guess who took over the armband!

61' -- Nordtveit is back up on his feet. Nagelsmann's running low on defensive options on the bench.

60' -- Hoffenheim sub Havard Nordtveit, who's only just come on, is down injured in the box after a collision with Mané. Holding his lower left leg, or perhaps ankle, hard to tell in slow-mo.

Champions League Qualifikation 1899 Hoffenheim - FC Liverpool (picture-alliance/dpa/U. Anspach)

Emre Can, Sergio Gnabry - there were good reasons for Joachim Löw to attend the game

56' -- Scorer Trent Alexander-Arnold is booked for backchat. He wanted a throw and it went the other way. Pretty cheap card.

51' -- Mané is increasingly cutting the figure of a cat toying with his prey on the flanks. This time he goes it alone and forces a save out of Baumann.

49' -- Disallowed goal for Hoffenheim. Serge Gnabry beat Mignolet at his near post, but he was indeed offside. That's one (rightly) disallowed goal apiece, now.

47' -- Baumann saves at point plank from Firmino. Sadio Mané had lit the afterburners and wriggled free on the left to create the chance - his pace is posing problems to the Hoffenheim back line.

46' -- The second half is off and running. 

HT analysis: Liverpool lead 1-0 at the break thanks to the unlikeliest of scorers, teenage right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold. The Reds must also thank keeper Simon Mignolet for keeping his nerve and saving a rather weak penalty from Andrej Kramaric. Hoffenheim have had most of the ball, and arguably the chances, threatening in particular with crosses into the box from either flank. Serge Gnabry has been lively going forward for the hosts, while Mo Salah's movement has caught out Hoffenheim's back three on several occasions, including an early goal rightly disallowed for offside.

45+1' -- HALF TIME. Lovren heads wide from a corner as the first period comes to a close.  

43' -- CHANCE! That really should have been the equalizer, for one Hoffenheim forward or the other... First Mignolet denies Gnabry from close range, then Sandro Wagner hits the outside of the post as he fires the ball right back at goal. 

39' -- Fascinating stats breakdown as we near half time. Hoffenheim dominating possession with 60 percent of the ball and considerably more completed passes.

37' -- Baumann called into action again to deny Emre Can. Will have stung his gloves, but no real threat to goal. 

35' -- GOAL LIVERPOOL! It's come from 18-year-old right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold. He fancied the free kick, direct, from around 25 yards out. A great hit into the bottom corner, Oliver Baumann (perhaps unsighted by his wall) didn't move. The visitors lead 1-0, rather against the run of recent play.

Champions League Qualifikation 1899 Hoffenheim - FC Liverpool (Imago/Revierfoto)

The perfectly-placed free kick left Baumann rooted to the spot

34' -- Foul Ermin Bicakcic. Pretty clear-cut yellow card. Sadio Mané had done him like a proverbial kipper; Bicakcic had to pull on his shirt to stop the danger.

30' -- Excellent period of play for the hosts. Liverpool's last meaningful attack was just after Hoffenheim's missed penalty. 

26' -- Mignolet's furious with his defense after a Kerem Demirbay cross floated to the back post uncontested. Pavel Kaderabek missed by miles, but every time Hoffenheim cross - and they're crossing often - the alarm bells ring.

24' -- Sandro Wagner tries his luck from range on the run, can't find the target. 

19' -- Interesting to see Serge Gnabry line up as a classic second striker, often dropping back into "number 10" territory. Judging by this, the loanee will be playing a key role for Nagelsmann's Hoffenheim this season, as last year at Werder Bremen. He's been at the heart of most of the home side's attacks so far.

14' -- Mo Salah breaks clear for a one-on-one with Oliver Baumann, but his low shot goes just a few centimeters wide of the post. Salah, the club's new record signing from AS Roma, scored on his Premier League debut at the weekend.

12' -- Andrej Kramaric from the spot... Simon Mignolet saves it! A very weak penalty, low and only a few inches to Mignolet's left. Neither the power nor the placement. Still 0-0.

10' -- Penalty Hoffenheim! Serge Gnabry nutmegs Dejan Lovren, their legs tangle, and Gnabry goes to ground. Tough call, but there was definitely contact.

8' -- Baumann saves down low at his near post, to deny Sadio Mané from a tight angle. 

6' -- End-to-end stuff here in the opening minutes. Two dangerous crosses into Liverpool's box in the last minute from Hoffenheim, both just about cleared. There are worse game plans for Hoffenheim than to test Mignolet and his back line in the air.

4' -- Simon Mignolet goes walkabout in the Liverpool goal, but does deal with the threat. Somehow, the Belgian doesn't look as assured or imposing as Manuel Neuer when roaming out of his box.

2' -- Offside! Mo Salah breaks free in the box, and even volleys into the top corner. But the linesman's flag is rightly raised. Still an early scare for Hoffenheim.

1' -- Including the European Cup of old, this is Liverpool's 364th game in the competition. It's Hoffenheim's first.

1' -- KICK OFF! Hoffenehim all in blue, Liverpool all in white.

-- Another season, another noisy operatic rendition of *that* tune. Players shake hands, we're just seconds from the off in the southwest of Germany. The match officials this evening hail from the Netherlands.

Jürgen Klopp und Roberto Firmino (Imago/A. Martin)

For Klopp, it's a return to Germany and for Firmino, it's a Hoffenheim homecoming

-- Less surprising is the presence of Hoffenheim's patron Dietmar Hopp at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, he rarely misses a home game, and surely not the club's first in the Champions League.

-- Cameras catch Germany's national team coach Joachim Löw in the stands. Plenty for him to survey this evening. Emre Can and Joel Matip in Liverpool's ranks, while Hoffenheim's Sandro Wagner and Serge Gnabry are among the attacking candidates for Germany.

Read more: Debutants Hoffenheim out to exploit flaws of Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool

--  DW's followers see an extremely balanced match, with 56 percent of participants in our poll saying they expect Hoffenheim to take the edge in the first leg on home turf. 

-- The players and coaches are out and warming up, 15 minutes before the off. 

-- With just a few minutes to go until kick off, both sides have announced their starting line-ups for the game in Sinsheim. 

Liverpool are without star playmaker Philippe Coutinho. Nominally, he has a bad back, but it's highly likely he pulled the muscle while straining to arrange a hurried transfer to Barcelona to fill a Neymar-shaped hole. His countryman Roberto Firmino will lead the line against his old club; German internationals Emre Can and Joel Matip also both start.

Hoffenheim, meanwhile, have lots of grit and height in their line-up - a concern for Liverpool after they shipped two goals from corners in a 3-3 draw with Watford at the weekend. Big center back Ermin Bicakcic and classic number 9 Sando Wagner are both particularly dangerous in the air. New loanee signing Serge Gnabry, of Werder Bremen last season but now contracted to Bayern Munich, will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders to create going forward, with Kerem Demirbay most likely to assist in this area. 

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