Belfast Telegraph

Klopp hails Liverpool's dramatic early thunderstorm

Liverpool 4 Hoffenheim 2

BY Mark Critchley

Jurgen Klopp hailed his Liverpool players for starting "like a thunderstorm" as three goals in the first 21 minutes blew Hoffenheim away and all but secured a place for his side in the Champions League group stages.

A brace from Emre Can, scored either side of a Mohamed Salah strike, saw Liverpool build on their 2-1 first-leg advantage early on and in emphatic style, but a reply from Mark Uth made for a tense end to the opening 45 minutes.

Liverpool re-emerged more composed after the break and later restored their four-goal aggregate lead through Roberto Firmino, and despite Sandro Wagner notching with a header 11 minutes from time, the tie had already been taken away from Hoffenheim.

Klopp was delighted with his side's start and revealed that it was always their intention to make an early impact.

"The start of the game was like a thunderstorm," he said.

"If you win away 2-1 the opponent could imagine that you'd sit back and wait to counter attack. We thought it would make sense to do it differently, high pressure.

"We did it really well, what we played was really fantastic.

"Usually after 3-0 that early, it's normal that there is a little break. I don't like it but it's normal," he added.

"This game was crazy, it could have ended 9-7 but even then we would have been in the group stage, so it was deserved.

"It's what we worked for in the last 14 months.

"You will find people who say 'yeah it's just the Champions League'. We wanted to be a part of it with all we have, and I thought the boys played a few pieces of outstanding football.

"Against an opponent like Hoffenheim you always have a few problems, that's how it is, but I'm really happy about the deserved qualification for the group stages."

Television footage captured Klopp passionately exclaiming "That's football!" to the Anfield crowd following his team's eye-catching third goal, with the Reds boss afterwards explaining: "I would be pleased if we would do this much more often! Yes, in the moment, I was very pleased. We showed we can do it. It can't be expected every game, but we will try."

Captain Jordan Henderson said Liverpool deserve to be playing Champions League football after the club booked their place in this season's competition.

"It was a brilliant night," he said. "We set the tempo and scored some good goals early on. We still can improve on the goals we conceded but overall we're delighted to be back in the Champions League, where Liverpool belong.

"We need to make sure we do ourselves justice. They are big nights for everyone and I'm delighted for the fans and the lads."

The draw for the group stages takes place this evening and the Wearsider added: "We've proved we can play against big teams and do well. We'll play whoever we get."

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