LIVERPOOL are back in the Champions League. Where this club belongs. Anfield deserves to host it. Jürgen Klopp deserves to manage in it. These players deserve to play in it. We deserve to watch it. And it will, and it will, and he will, and they will… and we will.
I still don’t know who or what Gazprom is, but they claim to light up the football. Well tonight it was The Reds lighting up the football. They lit up the night sky with football that at times was out of this world, that would have confused nearby planes had Roberto Firmino stuck that close-range chance away in the first half.
Here’s how these mighty Champions League Reds rated:
Simon Mignolet: 6
Didn’t have much to do and was largely fine in his general play, but still conceded two goals. Couldn’t do much about the second but — and this may seem ultra critical — seemed to go down quite slowly for the first. Also managed to drop the ball under no pressure in the second half, but thankfully recovered it.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 7
Another good outing from Trent. Was troubled a few times by the pace and directness of Serge Gnabry in the first half, but did some exciting things going forward, put some lovely balls into the box and fought well to win possession back on occasions when he’d lost it. Seriously considering trying to get #TrentysPlenty trending.
Joel Matip: 7
The big Cameroonian was excellent on Saturday and it was another good showing here. Made one error second half where he gave them the ball on the edge of the box but otherwise won lots of challenges, cut out dangerous balls and passed well and often. Scored quite a few for Schalke so not sure what it is he’s struggling with when attacking balls in England though. The wind?
Dejan Lovren: 5
The one outfield player who probably came off thinking he could have done better. Very poor on the first goal and not much better on the second. Not a performance to ease the nerves of anyone reading the stories that the manager doesn’t want anyone else if he doesn’t get Virgil van Dijk.
Alberto Moreno: 7
Let the fume commence. In all seriousness it was a good outing for Albie. Not just the way he linked up time and again with Sadio Mane down the left, but even his defensive work. Intercepted quite a few dangerous balls and won some higher up the field to start attacks. Love that he randomly decided he was going to be a centre forward for the last three minutes.
Jordan Henderson: 7
An improved showing from the skipper. Won lots of challenges in the middle and was more accurate with some of his long balls. Does brilliantly for the fourth goal, making his counterpart look as soft as anything in the tackle, and showed tremendous unselfishness to lay it off for Firmino to seal the tie. Hopefully he can push on from here.
Gini Wijnaldum: 7
Similar for Gini, a much-improved showing and arguably his first good performance of the season. From a lad who went missing too often, he was everywhere at times tonight. Won the ball time and again, found himself in scoring areas several times and played the most beautiful ball to set off the frankly erotic third goal. Much sharper.
Emre Can: 8
Did brilliantly considering he was supposed to be recovering from a virus. Both goals are not only well taken, but the result of very intelligent movement and knowing where the optimum place to be is to help out in the attack. More of this please, Emre. More of it I say. Oh and sign that contract. Good lad.
Sadio Mane: 9
When you play so well that you can get Steven Gerrard singing your song on telly then you’ve made it. Oh Mane, Mane, what a sublime performance, yet again. Ran them absolutely ragged, must have started about a gazillion (roughly) attacks and didn’t even get a goal himself, but was everything that was good about the attack. Great moment when the fans applauded him and he applauded back in the first half. Klopp didn’t want to hug him on Saturday. I’d hug him and never let go right now, apart from for a couple of hours on Sunday.
Mohamed Salah: 7
Another showing of what this nippy little lad offers. Kept the width on the right really well and selflessly so Mane and Bobby Firmino could ruin Hoffenheim in the other two thirds. In spite of that, always seemed to be there in the middle when the ball was loose, and so came the second goal. Didn’t get much joy out of the left back second half but who cares? The game was well won.
Roberto Firmino: 9
As I’ve alluded to before, I sometimes wonder whether Firmino would be better suited further back and playing behind an outright goalscorer, and then he goes and plays like that and leaves me rubbing my thighs like Vic Reeves. Was everywhere, doing everything, and doing it brilliantly. On another day could have had three goals and four assists. Right up there as one of his best performances in a red shirt. Was tempted to give him a bonus point for celebrating his goal against his former club by pulling his shorts down, whatever that was meant to be about.
Joe Gomez: 6
Hopefully Trent is OK but Gomez came on and did nothing wrong. Didn’t have an awful lot to do as Hoffenheim were largely pumping balls into the middle, but made a couple of good tackles and interceptions.
James Milner: 6
Misplaced a couple of passes but made up for it with a lovely ball to Firmino that nearly set up a fifth goal.
Ragnar Klavan: N/A
Was a bit confused the last sub wasn’t Dom Solanke given the tie was well won but obviously Klopp felt it important to make sure his team won the game by at least a couple of goals.
Bring on whoever in the Champions League. This club exists for big nights under the lights.
Up the better than Gazprom Reds.