UCL: Liverpool crush Hoffenheim to make it five EPL teams in the group stage

UCL: Liverpool crush Hoffenheim to make it five EPL teams in the group stage

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Liverpool produced a stunning attacking display against play-off opponents Hoffenheim to ensure five English sides will compete in the Champions League group stage for the first time.

Leading 2-1 from the first leg, the Reds virtually wrapped up the tie with three goals in the opening 20 minutes.

Emre Can’s deflected shot put them ahead before Mohamed Salah reacted quickest to slot in a rebound off the post.

Can stroked in Roberto Firmino’s cross at the back post just 143 seconds later before Hoffenheim substitute Mark Uth, introduced after 24 minutes in a tactical reshuffle, pulled one back.

Former Hoffenheim forward Firmino put the tie beyond doubt after the break, sliding the ball into the bottom corner after Jordan Henderson dispossessed opposing captain Kevin Vogt before unselfishly squaring.

The German side, who finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season, did not lose their spirit and pulled another back when Sandro Wagner headed in Andrej Kramaric’s left-wing cross.

The Reds, along with Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United will discover their group-stage opponents when the Champions League draw is made on Thursday.

Liverpool put themselves in a strong position to reach the Champions League group stage – for only the second time in eight seasons – after holding off a late Hoffenheim rally in last week’s first leg.

Hoffenheim’s 30-year-old manager Julian Nagelsmann insisted before the return leg that his team were “not in awe” of playing at Anfield. Their performance in the opening 20 minutes suggested otherwise.

The Reds – again missing Barcelona target Philippe Coutinho through illness – attacked from the whistle, unnerving the visitors with the energy and movement of forward trio Firmino, Sadio Mane and Salah.

 

BBC

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