Alexander Arnold is 'incredible' says Klopp as Liverpool star savours teenage dreams
Hoffenheim 1 Liverpool 2
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp praised the character of Trent Alexander-Arnold after the teenager scored a brilliant free-kick in their 2-1 Champions League play-off win over Hoffenheim.
The 18-year-old stepped up ahead of more senior colleagues to whip in a set-piece and open the scoring with his first goal for the club on his European debut.
Hoffenheim's late strike from Mark Uth came from Alexander-Arnold's side of defence after James Milner's cross had deflected in off Havard Nordtveit to make it 2-0, but Klopp accepts the youngster is still learning and was more interested in what he can do rather than what he cannot.
"I have to say, for an 18-year-old to have the guts to kick a free-kick is better than the mistake," he said.
"He is an incredible young player. It was actually because I told him he had to do it - he was the only one who can. He can shoot free-kicks better than I ever could.
"I told him because I watched him many times for the Under-23s last season and he took the free-kicks - and the goal is the same size. There is a big challenge after training for free-kicks between him and Ben Woodburn (the club's youngest scorer, who does not turn 18 until October)".
Alexander-Arnold admitted his European debut could not have gone any better.
"It is a thing of dreams to make your European debut for your boyhood club," he said.
"Especially to make it with a goal was very special for me. More importantly, we got the win.
"I kind of got egged on to take the free-kick, to be honest. I never put my hand up first but I had the confidence to take it and it paid off."
Despite conceding a late goal, Klopp insisted he was happy with the scoreline to take back to Anfield for next week's second leg.
Klopp added: “If somebody told me we would win tonight we would take each result — even an 8-7 — and so I am happy.
“No, I’m not happy with the goal they scored but I think they deserved the goal for their effort over the 90 minutes. Yes, they had their moments, especially when they changed a little bit their style of play. But we were very offensive on both wings and that left Trent and Alberto (Moreno) alone.”
Simon Mignolet saved an early penalty from former Leicester striker Andrej Kramaric to give Liverpool some early confidence.
“I saw the penalty and I thought it was offside. Simon again with John Achterberg (goalkeeping coach) did a really good job,” Klopp said.
“It was a decisive moment of course, it gave us a boost and a blow for the other team.”
Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson felt the German side’s late goal slightly took the shine off the result.
“We will be disappointed with the late goal because we wanted to take a clean sheet back to Anfield,” Henderson said. “We will be disappointed with that, but overall we have to be pleased.”
Meanwhile, Klopp has reiterated that the decision over Philippe Coutinho’s future is down to the Liverpool owners.
Coutinho is suffering from a back complaint, but uncertainty over the Brazilian’s future has still dominated the build-up.
Last Friday, Liverpool issued a strongly-worded statement insisting Coutinho would not be sold this summer, only for the player to submit a transfer request in a bid to force through a move to Barcelona.
Klopp said after Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Watford that any decision on Coutinho would be made by his “bosses” and he reiterated his stance.
“It is not that I don’t want to speak, it is that I can’t change my answers,” Klopp said.
“If they say they will bid whatever, we don’t want it, then it is a clear message. We don’t want money, we want to invest in the team and have the best team because we have our aims and dreams. That is the message. So whatever I think on this is not important. It’s not important what I think.
“I think I said, ‘I have bosses’ right? I have many bosses, including my wife. I can live with this, it’s no problem. They are 100 per cent clear on it, there is nothing else to say.”