Liverpool are through to the round of 16 after dispatching FC Augsburg 1-0 in the second leg of their Europa League tie.
Jürgen Klopp would have hoped to field a weaker side to rest up for the Capital One Cup final this Sunday, but the Reds were unable get the job done in Germany last week. Nonetheless, Liverpool are through to the next round, with only three days to prepare for Wembley and Manchester City.
It was a perfect start for the Reds as James Milner opened up the scoring from the spot after a controversial penalty call. Dominik Kohr was called for a handball inside the space after his fellow teammate Caiuby’s attempt to clear a corner kick lead to the former handling the ball above his head. Whether or not the handball was intentional, referee Clement Turpin pointed to spot, leaving Augsburg in an early hole.
The chances were scarce for the visitors in the first half. Dominant possession from Liverpool put a vice grip on the tie. If it weren’t for Liverpool’s penchant for poor finishing, the tie could have been finished before the half.
Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho were a handful to deal with as their one-two connections cause all kinds of trouble. The best chance between the two forced a terrific save from Augsburg goalkeeper Marwin Hitz as Coutinho stretched to poke Sturridge’s pass towards goal, just one of many saves from Hitz.
Augsburg best chance presented itself in a poor back pass from Lucas Leiva. Playing out of position in the back, Lucas sent a weak pass towards Simon Mignolet that was picked up by Caiuby. Despite rounding Mignolet, the angle was too narrow for Caiuby to find the net, and Mamadou Sakho was on the line just in case.
Liverpool see out edgy second half
Liverpool’s sharpness of play dulled a bit in the second half, but the door still remained effectively closed for Augsburg. Set pieces and corners were the bulk of the German side’s attack. Almost surprisingly, Liverpool did well to manage the aerial threat, sending each set piece back up the pitch.
Sturridge would be left frustrated halfway through the second half as the English striker’s shot went miserably wide. A poor distribution from Hitz was intercepted by Coutinho, who played Sturridge into space. After stepping past, Sturridge only had to beat Hitz. Instead of finding the net, he would miss the target completely, failing to kill off the tie.
Simon Mignolet would have a role late in the game, coming up with a crucial save to keep Liverpool on the front foot. An aware Koo Ja-cheol’s pass sent Tobias Werner on goal, but Mignolet was quick to react, smothering the ball the right when Werner took his touch. It was a nervy moment in a very nervy finish for Liverpool.
While it wasn’t a goal scoring frenzy, the Kop has many reasons to be happy. Despite lacking the finishing touch, Liverpool’s intricate overlapping play was inspiring and dangerous. Furthermore, no players sustained a serious injury. With a fairly healthy squad that is starting to gel, it is certainly going to be a wonderful League Cup final this weekend.