Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Liverpool: Divock Origi goal on Jurgen Klopp homecoming gives Reds advantage
Liverpool striker Divock Origi fully justified his manager's faith with a vital away goal against Borussia Dortmund and a 1-1 on Jurgen Klopp's homecoming kept everyone happy.
The focus on Klopp could hardly have been greater on his first return to Signal Iduna Park after leaving in May so it was difficult for the scrutiny to increase with his decision to start with the Belgian 20-year-old in place of his number-one striker Daniel Sturridge.
But the German is not afraid of making the big calls and this one paid off as Origi scored his first goal since February and the most important in his short Liverpool career to date in this Europa League quarter-final first leg.
Dortmund centre-back Mats Hummels' header just after half-time gave the hosts a draw which, on balance, they deserved but a composed, controlled European away performance for Liverpool has given them hope of progressing at Anfield next week against a side Klopp rates as among the top five in the world.
It was not quite master against apprentice as Thomas Tuchel has hardly taken Dortmund backwards this season but Klopp still knows a thing or two about European football and - inside knowledge or not - his tactics were spot-on.
From Origi's persistent running up top, occupying Dortmund's entire back line, to the work-rate in midfield and the new dogged determination instilled in the defence
While Klopp made one significant change, Tuchel opted for two but the inclusion of Germany centre-back Hummels and experienced goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller hardly weakened the side.
Dortmund have not lost since the Bundesliga's mid-winter break in December - a run of 15 matches - and it was no surprise to see them dominate possession, goal attempts and passes but they found a Liverpool defence, perhaps lifting their game for the occasion which Klopp told them not to play, in defiant mood.
Centre-backs Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren have had their critics but both put their bodies on the line for everything.
If it was not the former's outstretched leg denying Henrikh Mkhitaryan an almost certain goal or stopping Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's pass reaching the unmarked Marco Reus it was his partner, with possibly the best block of the night on Aubameyang, with goalkeeper Simon Mignolet brilliantly tipping over a Reus shot from the resulting corner.
Aubameyang, Reus and Mkhitaryan - Dortmund's trio of goalscorers whose combined tally of 75 bettered the entire Liverpool squad - all had efforts off target.
But despite being short of goals the visitors posed their own threat with Lovren heading straight at Weidenfeller before Origi's crowning moment arrived in the 36th minute.
James Milner easily beat Hummels in the air to flick on Alberto Moreno's chip and Origi, not for the first time, got the better of Lukasz Piszczek and held off the full-back long enough to angle a shot which, with the slightest of deflections off the defender, beat Weidenfeller.
Klopp had promised to celebrate if his new club scored against his former employers and celebrate he did, thumping his chest and roaring "Boom" on the touchline.
One can only imagine the German's reaction had Origi beaten Weidenfeller in a one-on-one in final seconds of first-half added time.
Liverpool lost Jordan Henderson at half-time to a knee injury while Dortmund sent on former Reds loanee Nuri Sahin for Erik Durm but within three minutes the hosts were level when the visitors switched off at a short corner and Hummels headed home.
Unbowed Philippe Coutinho forced Weidenfeller into two smart quick-reaction low saves and both sides continued to trade blows with regularity but neither could deliver the killer strike.
Origi eventually made way for Sturridge six minutes from time after a performance which displayed a growing maturity.
Jurgen Klopp heads back to former club Borussia Dortmund on Thursday for the first time since leaving in May.
We look at some of the issues surrounding Liverpool's Europa League quarter-final in Germany.
Will Liverpool be able to handle the match and cope with the occasion?
The furore surrounding Klopp's return has reached fever pitch with one German broadcaster planning to have a camera focused on him for the whole game. That should take most of the focus off the players, who will have been thoroughly prepared by their manager with the inside knowledge he has. However, their task in tackling a side Klopp rates as one of the best five in the world on home turf is considerable and man-for-man Dortmund are better in every department.
So apart from Dortmund generally being one of the world's best teams, what is the biggest threat to Liverpool?
Their front three of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrik Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus have scored 75 goals between them - more than Liverpool's entire squad have managed collectively this season - with Aubameyang alone scoring 37 goals in 39 games. They are an irresistible, fluid attacking force who are outscoring Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich and they also have the second-best defence in the league.
What weaknesses can Liverpool exploit?
There are not many. Since back-to-back defeats in November (in the league and Europe) they have won 17 of 21 in all competitions, losing just two. They have yet to lose at home in the league (12 wins and two draws) and have conceded just 11 goals. Liverpool's best hope may be to catch them on the counter-attack with the speed of Daniel Sturridge and the precision of Adam Lallana, but it will not be easy.
Klopp's Dortmund were the primary exponents of the high-pressure game which became known as gegenpressing. It is a tactic they still employ to great effect but the German's methods are still to gain a proper foothold at Anfield. They are good at doing it in patches but have yet to perfect it consistently and that could be an issue against Dortmund. It would be a brave tactic to attempt to out-press Dortmund at home but Klopp may feel it is the better of his options.
Realistically what do Liverpool need from the first leg?
The minimum Liverpool must achieve is to keep the tie alive until next week's encounter back at Anfield. At best that may be a narrow defeat, although an away goal would be nice. Klopp's side also have to be careful of being too over-enthusiastic in their attempts to stop their opponents as five players - defenders Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, Nathaniel Clyne and forwards Philippe Coutinho, and Roberto Firmino will all miss the second leg if they are booked at Signal Iduna Park.
James Milner talks up clash
Liverpool midfielder James Milner admits their Europa League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund is worthy of a grander stage.
Reds boss Jurgen Klopp's former club are favourites for the competition but Milner said with the Anfield side's own illustrious history the first leg could easily have taken place in UEFA's top-tier tournament.
"I think it is two top teams with great European history - put the tie in the Champions League and it wouldn't look out of place," he said.
"First and foremost it is important for Liverpool to be in Europe - this is definitely a big game and that hunger is there to win trophies.
"It's a great competition to be in with all the top teams left in it. It's another chance of silverware.
"You have to beat the best teams and Dortmund are one of those but on our day we feel we can beat anyone.
"They have a lot of good individuals but we have prepared well. We will need to be on top of our game."
With all the focus on Klopp it is easy to forget the players in the media circus which surrounded the German's return.
But Milner said that might be a blessing for the players.
He added: "It makes it very easy for us, all the attention is on him and we can concentrate on playing football."
On the match itself, he said: "I don't think we have to score but I think an away goal is important and helps. A 0-0 draw would be a good result.
"If we can score it puts us in a strong position for the second game.
"They are a top team but we will go out there trying to win the game."
Belfast Telegraph Digital