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 By Steven Kelly

Trent Alexander-Arnold shows he's ready to step up for Liverpool

Liverpool took a big step toward Champions League group stage qualification with a deserved 2-1 win at Hoffenheim. Of course they couldn't resist making the fans sweat in the final minutes, but that's only to be expected nowadays.

Positives

Maybe attack is the best form of defence? The way Liverpool break when they are a goal in front is quite astonishing, forcing the opposition to commit less to attack in case they are punished further.

Negatives

They had to concede at least one goal. Fortunately, it has the look of a consolation rather than anything truly damaging.

Manager rating out of 10

7 -- Little to be said now, as the Reds are going to play the way they always do and all views on the manager's role will be dictated by the result. An away win at tricky opponents meant Jurgen Klopp did his job well.

TSG HoffenheimTSG Hoffenheim
LiverpoolLiverpool
1
2
FT
Leg 1
Game Details

Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Simon Mignolet, 8 -- He didn't do anything miraculous but all of his saves came at crucial moments. The penalty stop at 0-0, one just before half time to preserve the 1-0 lead and one with 10 minutes to go as Liverpool appeared to be cruising home. Could do nothing to stop an excellent Hoffenheim goal late on.

DF Trent Alexander Arnold, 8 -- The youngster just keeps getting better, adding "free kick specialist" to his growing array of skills. Defended well and ventured down the wing, always providing menacing support. Slightly at fault for the goal conceded but that shouldn't dampen a superb evening's work.

DF Joel Matip, 7 -- Better, or at least calmer, than his central defensive partner. Good interventions, stronger in the air and in the tackle than at Watford. He was solid throughout the game.

DF Dejan Lovren, 5 -- Another erratic outing. Clumsy in the incident that saw the home side win a penalty, he was bailed out of trouble by a poor kick and his goalkeeper. Then caught arguing with the referee as the Germans took a quick free kick, he was again rescued by Mignolet. Provided some threat at corners but that isn't really what he's paid for, is it?

DF Alberto Moreno, 6 -- Solid enough and provided good support in attack, the occasional sloppy pass and sleepy defending didn't prove lethal in the end, apart from being passed too easily before the penalty award.

Trent Alexander-Arnold's superb free-kick set Liverpool on course for victory.

MF Jordan Henderson, 6 -- Poor at times, jumping into challenges and being bypassed when he really should have held firm and protected his defence more. Possible that he wasn't completely fit, which would explain his second-half substitution.

MF Emre Can, 6 -- Bit more disciplined than his captain, he still picked up a needless booking. Good energy levels that helped him support defence and attack whenever needed, he can still do more on a good day but was steady enough for a difficult away task.

MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 6 -- Another almost invisible first half performance, he improved as the game progressed but needs to perform well from the start against better opposition or he will quickly become an obvious weakness.

FW Sadio Mane, 8 -- Full of tricks and speed, he was his usual threatening self all night. The clinical finishing from last season isn't quite there yet but Mane is an integral part of the Reds' style -- especially when they have a lead to protect.

FW Roberto Firmino, 6 -- Question marks again over whether he can be the Reds' main striker. His work rate and touch when he's on form may keep him in Klopp's good books, but a missed chance on 46 minutes showed why Liverpool may need more up front sooner or later.

FW Mohammed Salah, 7 -- His threat grew as the game progressed. He was the most likely player to score in the final stages and almost made the second leg academic. Always shoots rather than looking for someone better-placed, so his finishing will need to improve, but he was an exceptional partner for Mane the longer the game went on.

Substitutes:

MF James Milner, 6 -- Solid enough replacement for Henderson, his shot/cross was deflected into the net for what may be the decisive goal in the tie.

FW Dominic Solanke, NR -- Replaced the tiring Firmino to help see out time. Had one or two nice touches but wasn't given a chance to show deadly he was in pre-season.

MF Marko Grujic, NR -- Late cameo, but still nearly made it 3-1 with a decent shot from outside the area.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.

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