Emre Can double fires Liverpool into group stages
Liverpool 4 - 2 Hoffenheim

Emre Can double fires Liverpool into group stages

23/08/2017

Liverpool scored three times in a devastating opening 21 minutes as they reached the Champions League group stage with a 6-3 aggregate win over Bundesliga side Hoffenheim at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp's side, leading 2-1 after the first leg in Germany, cruised through as they won 4-2 on the night thanks to two goals from midfielder Emre Can and strikes from Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

Liverpool started at a blistering pace and almost made the breakthrough with three minutes gone when Trent Alexander-Arnold -- who had opened the scoring in the first leg with a free kick -- saw his dead ball strike loop off the wall but Mohamed Salah, running in, headed over.

Within moments, Sadio Mane was through after a fine pass from Firmino, but goalkeeper Oliver Baumann blocked well.

Hoffenheim showed their potential threat when a neat break created problems only for the offside flag to go up against Serge Gnabry who, in any case, then failed to put the ball away from close range.

But Liverpool took the lead their pressure had merited when Can, set up by Mane's run and backheel, fired a deflected effort past Baumann to give them a 3-1 aggregate advantage.

The home side were pressing at a furious rate, denying the Bundesliga side any time, and threatened again when Moreno won another free kick but Joel Matip was unable to connect.

But they effectively wrapped up the tie after 18 minutes when Georginio Wijnaldum's low effort cannoned off the post and fell to Salah, who blasted home.

Alexander-Arnold thwarted Gnabry as he threatened to find space to shoot, but Liverpool then went straight to the other end and grabbed their third with only 21 minutes gone.

Mane was again involved, backheeling to Firmino on the left, and the Brazilian's cross was steered home by the unmarked Can at the far post.

Hoffenheim boss Julian Nagelsmann made a change, taking off defender Havard Nordtveit and bringing on Mark Uth, who had scored their first-leg goal.

His side should have pulled a goal back when more neat passing set Gnabry free on the left of the area but he dragged wide of Simon Mignolet's far post.

But with 28 minutes gone they did so as Uth struck again, steering a fine angled finish beyond Mignolet to make the aggregate score 5-2.

Ten minutes before the break Liverpool almost made it four when Baumann thwarted Firmino before the keeper clutched Mane's follow-up effort.

Can came close to a hat trick as the first half drew to a conclusion, shooting just wide, before Uth threatened again when his low effort was stopped by Mignolet.

Liverpool broke from a Hoffenheim corner in the opening minutes of the second half but were unable to make it count as Alexander-Arnold's cross whizzed through the area, and after 55 minutes they came even closer when Salah set up Wijnaldum, only for the midfielder to blast his effort high into the Kop.

Back came Hoffenheim but Andrej Kramaric, in space on the right, drilled his cross beyond teammates, and the visitors made another change when Gnabry was replaced by Adam Szalai before Liverpool broke again and Mane's powerful strike from an angle was pushed behind by Baumann, who denied Wijnaldum soon afterwards.

But Baumann was beaten for a fourth time when, after 63 minutes, Jordan Henderson won possession outside the Hoffenheim area and ran on before squaring the ball to Firmino, who finished low into the corner.

Joe Gomez replaced Alexander-Arnold soon afterwards, with Anfield rising to acclaim two-goal Can when Klopp replaced him with James Milner as the game entered its final 20 minutes.

Hoffenheim, however, kept going and were rewarded with a second goal as Kramaric crossed superbly from the left and Wagner powered home a header.

The excellent Mane was taken off to be replaced by Ragnar Klavan as an excellent night for Liverpool drew towards it conclusion.

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