Were Liverpool lucky to beat Hoffenheim?

Hoffenheim manager Julian Nagelsmann suggested that Liverpool were lucky to beat his side, as the Reds took a 2-1 lead back to Anfield for the second leg of their Champions League qualifying tie. So was he right? Or did Liverpool deserve to win the game?

Hoffenheim only have themselves to blame

The first thing to note is that luck implies that something happened out of both team’s control in order to influence the match. And that certainly didn’t happen.

When you look at the balance of play, Nagelsmann has a point that his side probably should have scored more than one goal. And to the extent that Liverpool couldn’t control the awful penalty taken by Andrej Kramarić they were lucky, but the implication that Hoffenheim were in some way unlucky doesn’t follow.

Moreover, Simon Mignolet was excellent, making two or three truly excellent saves, including his great stop from the penalty spot. He denied Nadiem Amiri late on, Kramarić from the spot in the opening ten minutes and Serge Gnabry late on in the first half. Hoffenheim could well have got more out of the game, but Liverpool’s Belgian keeper was phenomenal and Hoffenheim only have themselves to blame, having missed four big chances.

Liverpool scintillating

The other thing to note is that on the balance of play, Liverpool thoroughly deserved to win the match, and in terms of chances created, 2-1 is an accurate reflection of the balance of play.

Whilst the first half was reasonably even, Liverpool still had two terrific chances to score on top of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s genius free-kick, with Mohamed Salah breaking through on goal only to fire wide, and Dejan Lovren’s header missing by inches with the last touch of the first half.

And truthfully, Liverpool could have scored five or six in the second half. Whilst there was clearly a touch of fortune about their second goal, Håvard Nordtveit’s leg deflecting James Milner’s cross into the net, they created enough chances to win the game twice over. Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, Salah and Lovren were all denied brilliantly by Hoffenheim keeper Oliver Baumann with Emre Can heading over and Mané firing wide.

Moreover, Nagelsmann was tactically out-thought and outplayed by his opposite number, Jürgen Klopp. Whilst Hoffenheim dominated possession, they were caught out time and again by Liverpool’s lethal counter-attacking football, and their high line simply did not work. They had absolutely no answer to Mané, and resorted to kicking him out the game, a tactic which blew up in their faces when both of Liverpool’s goals came from free-kicks after Mané was fouled.

Overall, whilst there was an element of luck involved in Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Hoffenheim, it was also a deserved win, and Nagelsmann was outmanoeuvred by Klopp. Hoffenheim face a massive uphill battle in the second leg, and it’s entirely of their own making.