The first leg of the UEFA Champions League qualifying playoff between TSG Hoffenheim and Liverpool FC took place at the home stadium of the German team on Tuesday evening.
It was clearly visible that both of last season’s fourth- placed finishers of the Bundesliga and the English Premier League respectively, were sides that like to play attractive, offensive soccer.
The game showed that in terms of level of play, there was not much to choose between the mighty Liverpool, with a history full of domestic and European trophies, and the lowly TSG Hoffenheim, a village team and continental novices, with less than a decade of experience in the German top flight.
“Hoffe” clearly showed that they belonged on the big stage. The only major difference that put Liverpool’s Reds over the top, was their cleverness.
Early on, Andrej Kramaric had his penalty kick saved by LFC keeper Simon Mignolet. Ten minutes before halftime a fantastic free kick by the English side’s youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold opened the scoring for them.
Fifteen minutes before the end of the first leg, came what seemed to be the deciding goal. A quickly-taken Liverpool free kick in the midfield took Hoffenheim by surprise. No one could stop the Red’s attack, which ended up in the net after a deflection by new Hoffe signing Havard Nordtveit.
Only the home side’s power-play toward the end gave them the 2-1 goal by the substitute Mark Uth and with it a glimmer of hope for next week’s second-leg in Liverpool.
The statistics of German teams playing there are quite abysmal, but TSG Hoffenheim has to believe in their chance and play at their best in order to achieve a potential “Miracle of Anfield” and advance to the UEFA Champions League group stage in the unlikeliest of circumstances. It may be only a dream now.
But who says dreams never come true?