OH European nights, how I’ve missed you. The lights, the songs, the inexplicably terrible officiating that almost makes you pine for the grandiose ‘Blue Steel’ pout of Mike Dean.
That and The Reds winning again.
Could have done without three individual brainfarts from the back four letting Hoffenheim get a goal back, but in reality it changes very little. They still need to score twice or more at Anfield and stop us from bothering their net.
So here’s the first of what will hopefully be many Champions League match ratings.
Simon Mignolet: 7
Steven Gerrard made a very good point at half time. The penalty save may look simple, but it’s made simple by Mignolet reading the taker, as he often does so well. Most ‘keepers just dive and hope, and in that case it looks like a “cool and calm” penalty. Not The Mig, he stays up and palms it away at a crucial moment. Could have been more commanding on occasion but overall had a much better game than Saturday.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 8
Who put the ball in the German net? Who put the ball in the German net? Who put the ball in the German net? Trent Alexander-Arnold.
What a hit son, and way to make us stop panicking about who is going to take our set pieces if Phil Coutinho leaves. Not just the brash and ballsy brilliance of wanting to take the kick, insisting he take the kick and absolutely bossing the kick, but his overall game was calm, assured and effective. Was guilty of being too preoccupied with persuading the assistant ref to put his flag up than actually trying to stop Mark Uth (Robert’s brother?) from scoring, but otherwise was excellent.
Joel Matip: 7
Not sure how this one will go down but I thought Matip was very good. Like Saturday he didn’t get much protection from his midfield, but his positioning and calmness allowed Trent to get forward whenever he wanted. He won a lot of headers, made plenty of interceptions and was generally good with the ball. Like Trent he could do better with the goal, but he was a completely different Matip from the weekend. Hopefully he can keep this up because he was getting very little in the way of help from…
Dejan Lovren: 5
The Croat struggled badly more or less all game, and was the one playing Uth onside at the end. Sandro Wagner beat him to everything, which is why the striker seemed to stick on him rather than Matip all game. Incidentally I’m not sure what it was, possibly the moustache, but doesn’t Wagner look like a comic book villain? He definitely has some sort of underground lair somewhere, and hired goons.
I thought Lovren was a bit unfortunate with the penalty. Serge Gnabry seemed to be offside and then it was one of those fouls where you wonder how Lovren is supposed to get out of the way, but Mignolet saved it anyway. He also needed to do better with the two attacking headers he won from corners.
Alberto Moreno: 7
Another decent performance from Albie. The Spaniard didn’t start too well as he got too easily beat in one instance, then was caught way out of position for the penalty, but otherwise was fine. Offered a really useful outlet at times, was calm in possession and made a couple of vital blocks. It will be interesting to see how much he’s going to be used this season, not least for Andrew Robertson, who must be a tad confused.
Jordan Henderson: 6
Still doesn’t seem quite there for him. Was getting about the pitch more than Saturday but his touch still seems off. He miscontrolled in bad areas in the first half and failed to protect Matip or Lovren much. Improved in the second but then came off on the hour mark. Slowly but surely I’m sure he’ll get back to normal, but think we could do with another slightly more defensive-minded lad in there (though not sure Jürgen Klopp agrees).
Emre Can: 7
I liked Can’s performance. He was getting about the pitch well, covering a lot of ground quickly and was often the one in there making crucial tackles, and fouls when necessary. He was unlucky when he got booked as it meant he had to calm that side down, but he still got in the way of things. Helped Henderson more than he had done at Watford, so fair play to him for that.
Gini Wijnaldum: 6
Another off night for Gini, though he did also improved second half. His touch was horrendous in the first, he didn’t seem to be able to control the ball no matter how much time or space he had. He specialises in ghosting into the box, but needs to stop ghosting around the midfield as well. I’m still not certain what his actual role in the team is, and from the way he’s started the season, I’m not sure he is either. He did improve though as I said, and started a few counter attacks in the second half, including being alert to take the quick free kick that lead to the second goal.
Sadio Mane: 8
Another excellent showing from the Senegalese star. When Julian Nagelsmann’s side were dominating periods in the first half, Mane was the out ball, and he did brilliantly with it, either drawing fouls, starting attacks or just keeping the ball so we could recover and reposition. He did so well to set up the chance for Roberto Firmino early in the second half, and was unlucky to come away without at least one assist (though winning the foul for the free kick might count).
Mohamed Salah: 6
A similar performance to the Watford game for Mo. Again his pace and timing of run got him into some excellent positions, but his final ball and decision making was off. As I said on Saturday, once it clicks there will be no stopping him, but he’s perhaps just a shade guilty of overthinking things at the moment. A hat trick against Crystal Palace will cure that right up.
Roberto Firmino: 6.5
An odd performance from Firmino. Overall it was mostly fine, he did what he does well, though he could have held the ball up a bit better in the first half. He did win it back on several occasions though and started attacks, particularly after they started to tire in the second half. He loses half a point for that miss after Mane’s great work. One of those moments where you wish we had a proper “nine” up there, but then he goes and runs 40 yards to win the ball back and you’re reminded why he’s actually there in the first place.
James Milner: 7
Millie did better than I expected, to be honest. Hoffenheim were playing at a good pace, starting to threaten again and I feared that Milner’s lack of pace was going to be exploited. Quite the contrary, he took advantage of their tiring midfield with his runs, and he did brilliantly for the second goal. He was lucky with the deflection, but if you don’t buy a ticket and all that.
Dominic Solanke: N/A
I’m making it a point not to give a score for anyone who comes on with less than 10 minutes left, as that’s fairly ludicrous, but big Dom did well. He put pressure on defenders, kept them pinned back late on and even helped with some defensive work. Glad to see Klopp isn’t afraid to use him in such an important game.
Marko Grujic: N/A
Was just hoping he didn’t come on, leather someone and get sent off. There is an element of Jonjo Shelvey about Grujic, but he did put in a great block on Kerem Demirbay near the end when Shelvey probably would have kicked him in the balls and spat on his knee.
Up the European away-winning Reds.