Liverpool Makes a Step Up Into The Champions League
You would expect a really big bear with a limb missing to beat a slightly smaller bear with a limb missing in a fight to the death. Their weapons and weaknesses are essentially the same, but the weight-category discrepancy is key . A gorilla or a cheetah or a rhino might rip the three-limbed bear to shreds, but it’s not going to have much trouble with a smaller version of itself.
And so to Liverpool, an amusingly top-heavy football team, who last night booked a place in the Champions League group stages by beating Hoffenheim, an amusingly top-heavy football team who aren’t quite as good.
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The home side were impressive, particularly in the opening 22 minutes, when they scored three times to put the tie to bed. Sadio Mané, Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Emre Can cut through the Hoffenheim defence like a deluxe knife collection through butter, with Liverpool’s third especially memorable.
Jürgen Klopp clearly agreed. “THAT’S FOOTBALL!” he hollered on the touchline (t-shirt available from the Liverpool club shop in 3, 2, 1…); “the start of the game was like a thunderstorm,” he swooned at full-time.
Liverpool players celebrateGetty Images
There were, though, old failings on view: after a rare clean sheet at the weekend, the defence occasionally looked close to descending into full Chuckle Brothers mode again. They were all at sea when Mark Uth grabbed his second of the tie and Sandro Wagner also got his name on the scoresheet late on.
By that point, of course, the celebrations had already started. But how different things could have been had Hoffenheim taken their chances in Germany, or if Serge Gnabry had been more clinical in the first half at Anfield.
A good outcome for Liverpool, then, but challenges far tougher than this (hall of) mirror match await in the Champions League proper.