Firmino stars as Liverpool forwards look dominant in win vs. Hoffenheim
Liverpool stormed into the group stage of the Champions League with a breathtaking attacking display that resulted in a 4-2 win over Hoffenheim in Wednesday's second leg and a 6-3 aggregate playoff victory. Four goals were the least this performance deserved, and even the usual lapses at the back could not spoil an excellent night.
When Liverpool are in this mood, few can live with them. All the forwards look capable of scoring at the moment, and there was a welcome return to a frenetic high press that the visitors simply could not cope with.
As always, the Reds were way too open. Better sides will cause greater damage than Hoffenheim, who still managed to score three over the two legs and could easily have had more.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Mission accomplished for Jurgen Klopp, and it's easy to overlook the flaws when you're watching a team play football as exciting as this.
Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Simon Mignolet, 6 -- One or two decent saves, although he also had one or two jittery moments. No chance with either goal.
DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 6 -- Good going forward, but found defending hard going. He received little protection from forwards flying at him, and was feeling the pace a little when he was substituted.
DF Joel Matip, 7 -- Best of the defenders, albeit with the odd lapse. It was understandable that the mistakes of others began to affect him at some stage, but he managed to hold it together generally and even go forward on occasion.
DF Dejan Lovren, 5 -- Allowed the visitors a brief glimmer of hope with a dreadful pass that indirectly led to their first goal. He did improve after the break, with some good tackles and headers, but was still beaten in the air for Hoffenheim's second goal.
DF Alberto Moreno, 6 -- Contributing to the general defensive malaise, he at least followed instructions in the second half and held back a bit more. Almost inevitably, he was still the furthest Liverpool player forward in the 93rd minute. Leopards can't change their spots overnight, although by then it certainly didn't matter.
MF Emre Can, 8 -- Excellent industry and also scored two goals that greatly eased the early tension of such an important match. Integral role in the midfield press that ran Hoffenheim ragged at times. Hopefully his early removal from play was just a precaution
MF Jordan Henderson, 7 -- Led by example with some energetic hustling, summed up perfectly by his role in Liverpool's fourth goal. Back to something close to his best on the night, though there are still one or two problems to iron out before he's the Henderson of old.
MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 7 -- Better play from the Dutchman; he was unlucky not to score after hitting the post just before it became 2-0. Kept going to the end and seemed determined to score, while still pressing diligently.
FW Sadio Mane, 9 -- Somehow not on the score sheet, he once again tormented Hoffenheim. Some beautiful turns and tricks helped Liverpool run up a three-goal lead that virtually killed the tie. He is wonderful to watch in this mood.
FW Mohammed Salah, 7 -- Scored a goal that would have been harder to miss than put away, but he still needed the anticipation to stay forward when Wijnaldum's shot hit the post. Some good defensive work in the second half too, something he did need to improve upon.
FW Roberto Firmino, 9 -- Simply brilliant at times. His marksmanship may often be wayward, but who cares -- he played a major part in all four goals. He caused big problems all game. Finally given a chance even he couldn't miss, to tie up the game. If that side of his game improved, Barcelona would not be interested in Philippe Coutinho. His fellow Brazilian would be the one being chased.
DF Joe Gomez, 5 -- One or two poor moments at right-back, foolishly turning his back instead of facing his opponent at least twice, once leading to a goal. Fairly solid otherwise, but he has to correct that flaw if he is to get more game time.
MF James Milner, 6 -- Solid enough replacement for Can; kept up a high press and put through one or two good balls that may have resulted in more goals if other players weren't so tired.
DF Ragnar Klavan, NR -- Very late arrival, with little to do as the visitors had finally accepted defeat.
Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.