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Showing posts with label hoffenheim. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hoffenheim. Show all posts

Thursday, August 24, 2017

UCL Play-off: Liverpool 4-2 Hoffenheim

Liverpool secured a place in the Champions League group stages with a 4-2 (6-3 agg) victory over Hoffenheim in the second leg of the sides' qualifier on Wednesday evening.

Emre Can netted either side of a Mohamed Salah strike as the Reds made a blistering start to proceedings on the long-awaited return of European nights at Anfield.

The Germans reduced the deficit shortly before the break when early substitute Mark Uth produced a clinical finish from what was a rare chance for the visitors in a one-sided 45 minutes.

But a less frantic second half saw Roberto Firmino tap in following good work from Jordan Henderson and effectively put the seal on Liverpool's return to Europe's elite cup competition despite Sandro Wagner's late header.

The key points…

  • Reds race into three-goal lead
  • Can (two) and Salah net in first 20 minutes
  • Uth pulls one back before half-time
  • Firmino goal in second half seals it
  • Wagner heads in late consolation

The team news…

Having made five changes for the weekend win over Crystal Palace, Jürgen Klopp reverted to the starting XI that had previously earned victory at Rhein-Neckar-Arena.

However, unlike in Germany, Andy Robertson and Daniel Sturridge took up two of the places on the substitutes' bench.

The first half…

The Reds wasted little time in signalling their intent, going close in the opening moments through a Salah header and a Sadio Mane one-on-one that was well saved.

As such, it was little surprise to see the opener come after just 11 minutes - and not until after Serge Gnabry had already seen a goal for the visitors ruled out for offside.

It came courtesy of Can, whose overlap was rewarded with a well-timed tee-up from Mane and a slight deflection on his side-footed finish.

The midfielder's intricate link-up with Alberto Moreno and Firmino was also key to the second, and resulted in the latter teeing up Gini Wijnaldum for a shot onto the post that was touched in by Salah.

And it was dreamland for the Reds in the 21st minute as Firmino's stand-up to the back post was met emphatically by Can to make it 3-0.

Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann responded to the onslaught by sending on attacker Uth - a move that was justified by the substitute's clinical finish from just inside the box moments later.

But Liverpool retaliated by crafting another big chance before the break, Firmino seeing a close-range effort from Salah's low cross saved well.

The second half…

The hosts' significant cushion set the tone for the start of the second period, with Klopp's men happy to sit deep and hit on the break.

And, as is so often the case, when the Reds did get the chance to spring, they did so at frightening pace.

One such counter ended in Wijnaldum blasting over after a one-two with Salah, while Mane saw a left-foot strike well parried in similar circumstances shortly after.

The Reds got it right eventually, though, with Henderson capitalising on a loose backpass to pinch the ball and teeing up Firmino for a pass into the net.

Hoffenheim refused to go down without a fight, and grabbed a consolation when Wagner rose highest to head in a deep cross in front of the visiting fans at the Anfield Road end.

But that could not take the shine off a comfortable victory for the Reds that put them back among Europe's elite.

Goal highlights…

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

UCL Play-off: Hoffenheim 1-2 Liverpool

Liverpool took a step towards the Champions League group stages with a 2-1 victory over Hoffenheim in the first leg of the tournament play-offs on Tuesday night.

After a lively start, achtzehn99 spurned the chance to open the scoring when Simon Mignolet saved Andrej Kramaric’s penalty at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena.

And it was the Reds who did the break the deadlock when Trent Alexander-Arnold grabbed his first-ever goal for the club with a sensational long-range free-kick on 35 minutes.

In a keenly-fought contest, James Milner came off the bench to net Liverpool’s second, finding the top corner via a deflection off Havard Nordtveit.

However, with full-time approaching, Mark Uth’s drive pulled a goal back for Hoffenheim to give the Bundesliga side something to cheer ahead of the return meeting at Anfield next week.

The key points…

Mignolet saved Kramaric penalty after 12 minutes
Alexander-Arnold opened scoring with stunning free-kick
Milner grabbed second in final stages via deflection
Uth reduced arrears in 87th minute with clinical finish
Reds hold one-goal lead ahead of next week’s Anfield return
The team news…

Jürgen Klopp elected to select the same line-up as the one deployed at Watford in Saturday’s Premier League opener, meaning Alberto Moreno retained his place at left-back ahead of Milner, while Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah led the three-man attack.

The first half…

Spurred on by their vocal support, Hoffenheim started brightly at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena.

Indeed, just six minutes had elapsed when Joel Matip was required to produce an excellent defensive header to deny Serge Gnabry the chance to open the scoring after Kramaric had escaped into space down the right and crossed dangerously into the centre.

Soon after, a delivery from the left at a free-kick required a combination of Dejan Lovren and Mignolet to scramble it to safety.

But on 11 minutes, Hoffenheim were awarded a penalty after Lovren was deemed to have brought down Gnabry. Kramaric stepped up to do the honours, but his kick was repelled by Mignolet, much to the delight of the away contingent housed in the corner.

The contest was being played at frenetic speed – and the Reds fashioned their first chance soon after when Salah was sent clean through from a Firmino pass after Kevin Vogt had conceded possession; however, the No.11 slid wide of the post under pressure from recovering defenders.

Liverpool were slowly growing into the game – and 10 minutes before the break, they opened the scoring in quite magnificent fashion.

A trip on Mane 30 yards out in a central position presented an opportunity to strike towards goal, and it was Alexander-Arnold who took control, curling the ball around the wall and into the bottom corner for his first ever for the club.

It was some way to mark his European debut on what was only a 14th senior appearance for the 18-year-old Scouser.

Hoffenheim threatened to level just before the break, but Mignolet reacted well to block Gnabry’s turn-and-drive before Sandro Wagner scooped the rebound wide.

Then, in stoppage-time, Lovren headed a Moreno corner inches wide of the far post as a fast-paced opening 45 minutes came to a close.

The second half…

Liverpool should have added a second goal to their tally within just 90 seconds of the re-start, but Firmino was left holding his head in his hands after his close-range swipe from Mane’s run and pass was kept out by Oliver Baumann.

Soon after, the home team’s goalkeeper was needed to repel a low drive from Mane as the Senegal forward’s pace continued to trouble Hoffenheim.

As the half progressed, the German side began to exert pressure on their guests in an attempt to restore parity; Gnabry hooked a half-volley wide on 66 minutes following a flurry of corners.

But Klopp’s men responded with Salah having a low shot turned away by the boot of Baumann before the custodian saved from a Lovren header at a corner.

The Reds had earlier replaced Jordan Henderson with Milner – and with 14 minutes left, the vice-captain struck a potentially decisive goal in the tie.

The Merseysiders broke forward at pace from a quickly-taken free-kick and Firmino spread possession wide to the No.7 in space on the left side of the area. His ball towards the back post struck Nordtveit and looped into the top corner.

With the game edging towards its conclusion, Mignolet did well to keep out Uth’s snap-shot inside the box, while Mane skewed wide when played in by Salah at the other end.

But, with just three minutes left of normal time, Uth did give Hoffenheim hope when he chested down a ball over the top and drilled low across goal beyond Mignolet to reduce the deficit.

Liverpool were required to see out some nervy moments before the full-time whistle, not least when Kramaric headed over the bar in injury-time from a free-kick, but they did enough to ensure they hold the advantage going into next Wednesday’s Anfield second leg.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Match Preview: Hoffenheim v Liverpool (Champions League play-off first leg)

Tuesday's Champions League play-off first leg will be the first time Hoffenheim and Liverpool have met in the history of the two clubs, with a place in the group stages at stake for the winner of the tie.

To get the inside track on the story of Achtzehn99’s rise to prominence in Germany, spoke to Lutz Pfannenstiel, head of scouting and international relations for Hoffenheim and also the only player ever to play club football on all six continents.

At the turn of the century, Hoffenheim were a local amateur club playing in the fifth tier of German football and will now feature in the Champions League play-off stage for the first time after finishing fourth in the Bundesliga.

When asked to describe their remarkable journey, Pfannenstiel outlines the core philosophy which underpins Hoffenheim’s recent success.

“The club started to rise through the divisions from the year 2000 onwards,” he begins.

“In 2008 we finally reached the big goal to play in the highest tier of German professional football. The club’s philosophy is based on very strong youth development. The aim is to develop our own players from our academy to break into the first team.

“The recent years I would describe as learning how to be consistent and working hard to establish ourselves as a respected team in the Bundesliga.

“Last season we achieved our highest finish in club history and everybody in the club is excited to finally play European football.”

With the likes of Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund leading the way, the competition in Germany is intense.

So how does a relatively smaller club such as Hoffenheim compete with these teams? The answer lies in youth and developing from within.

“We have completely different financial possibilities [to these other clubs]. We need to keep on investing in our youth structure and we clearly see ourselves as a development club,” Pfannenstiel continues.

“It is normal that the big clubs will buy some of our top players, like a few months ago when we lost the two German internationals, Rudy and Sule, to Bayern Munich.

“However, we have enough talent in our academy and with Alexander Rosen, a very smart sporting director who will find more young talents ready to make the next step.”

One of the players to have moved on from Hoffenheim in recent years is, of course, Roberto Firmino.

Since joining Liverpool in the summer of 2015, the Brazilian has established himself as a key part of Jürgen Klopp’s side and took on the iconic No.9 jersey for the new season.

Having worked with the forward since his early days at Hoffenheim, Pfannenstiel reveals what it is that makes him such a special player.

“Roberto is a typical example for our philosophy. We found him in Brazil as a youngster when not many people knew about him,” he recalls.

“Firmino put a lot of extra work in, the coaches developed him into a top player and it was normal for us that he moved to a huge club like Liverpool.

“Firmino is not a typical Brazilian player – he took on a lot of the German mentality and I believe that his way of playing football fits perfectly with Jürgen Klopp’s style.”

Despite impressing since his arrival in England, Pfannenstiel believes we have yet to see everything Firmino has to offer, with plenty more still to come.

“I believe Roberto has already proved that he is a top player – but trust me, he will get even better,” he adds.

With Hoffenheim having lost only four Bundesliga games in 2016-17, the challenge awaiting Klopp and his players in their Champions League play-off is clear.

But what has been the reaction to the draw from the other side?

“The first reaction was, of course, ‘Why Liverpool?’, but looking at it realistically, I think it is a special draw,” says Pfannenstiel.

“Every player must be burning to play at Anfield. It is the biggest game in our club’s young history. Most experts see the Reds as the big favourites, but at the end of the day we are not travelling to Liverpool just to listen to You’ll Never Walk Alone. If you reach this point in the competition then you want to go all the way.

“Jürgen Klopp is a legend in Germany and is already on his way to becoming a legend in England. But at the end of the day, it is not Klopp versus a German club – it is Liverpool against Hoffenheim.

“It’s impossible to pick a single player who stands out – the whole squad is brilliant.”

While Klopp is a renowned figure in Germany following his time at Dortmund, Hoffenheim’s own German manager is forging a reputation as one of the leading young coaches in Europe.

Upon taking over in February 2016, Julian Nagelsmann became the youngest manager in Bundesliga history.

With Hoffenheim struggling and in danger of relegation, he led the team to seven wins in their final 14 matches to avoid the drop, and built on that momentum with a fourth-place finish last term.

Pfannenstiel emphasises just how pivotal the manager has been in turning the club’s fortunes around.

“Julian Nagelsmann is an outstanding coach. He has the unique talent to make every single player better,” he says.

“Since he took over we didn’t just start to win games, but we also started playing very attractive football. To play European football just underlines what an impact Julian Nagelsmann has had.”

The evolution of Hoffenheim has seen the club cemented as a fixture in the top tier of German football, with the next aim being to break into Europe.

Having risen through the divisions in such a short space of time, how do Achtzehn99 take that step?

For Pfannenstiel, it’s a case of staying true to the trusted methods which have worked so far – and to ensure that last season’s achievement becomes a regularity, not just a one-off.

“It is very difficult to top last season, but I think it is important that we continue to play the same kind of football and then the results will come naturally,” he concludes.

“It is vital to establish ourselves as a top-half side in the Bundesliga – but there is no point in creating unnecessary pressure by setting too many expectations.”

Source: Liverpool FC Official

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