LIVERPOOL 1-0 AUGSBURG
GOOD NEWS! Liverpool did what they needed to and made it to the next round of the Europa League’s knockout stages.
Liverpool had faced Augsburg before, at their own stadium. The result last time was less than satisfactory (apart from not conceding perhaps) when we failed to score any away goals in Germany. As explained earlier (in http://www.anfieldfamily.com/augsburg-0-0-liverpool/) – we could not afford to concede any goals, or if we did we had an important need to keep scoring at least one more goal than they had. Drawing 1-1 or any of the other draws (which requires them to have scored) was something we needed to avoid especially so that Augsburg could not take advantage of the away goals rule. We managed to avoid conceding and drawing and got a goal of our own to make us the winning side, credit to the whole squad for that.
Liverpool’s lineup was slightly different from the one that travelled to Germany. Lucas would feature in central defence with Sakho and did a good job in a position that he’s not used to playing in regularly. The manager explained later that he thought Kolo Toure needed a rest, deciding to put him on the substitute bench instead of straight into the starting 11. Pedro Chirivella would be named in the squad, as would João Carlos Teixeira. Though only Teixeira would play of the two new substitutes.
Firmino, Coutinho and Sturridge all bunched together as the foremost attacking members of the team. They looked dangerous in attack, mostly. No matter which of the three attackers got the ball, there was always a chance for a goal. Fans could be confident of their team with a strong offensive force like that.
Liverpool’s start to the first half was just what we needed. We started strong. A moment of attacking at the 5th minute of the game brought about the only goal of this Europa League fixture. James Milner would put a cross into the box, which would see two Augsburg defenders both jump into the air at the same time to get the ball cleared out with a header. It was not even a Liverpool player that was jumping into the air with Dominik Kohr as he raised his hand and the ball struck it, it was one of his own teammates. The cross was dangerous and we had at least three players in the penalty area, waiting to receive the ball. Augsburg were so desperate to clear it that two of their players had attempted to do it at the same time, but it was not a head that hit the ball. It was Dominik Kohr’s hand. The referee did not have to think very long after seeing it happen before deciding to award the penalty. He made his decision fairly quickly, blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot and waved away any protesters from the Augsburg side that may have felt treated unfairly. You defended a cross with your hands, that’s not allowed in football. It’s a foul and we deserved the penalty.
Had the crossed ball actually gotten past your hands, we were already inside of the penalty area and ready to shoot from close distance and most likely score, anyway. Firmino was one of the first Liverpool players to react and actually gave the referee a “thumbs up” (both thumbs in fact), signalling his approval that he had made the right decision in awarding the penalty.
Even though he’s Brazilian, speaks Portuguese and little to no English, he still can show his approval in the same way that the English-speaking players would. A thumbs up is globally understood. Firmino is a great player and he was probably going to get the ball first if it wasn’t stopped in the air, so he most likely was quite unhappy when Kohr stopped that from happening with his hand. No surprise then, that Firmino would happily agree with the referee’s decision.
So, the actual penalty itself… James Milner would take it. Watching it happen, I became a little nervous in the build up. The Augsburg goalkeeper was trying a few distractions, waving his arms about and trying to make himself look big but Milner seemed cool and collected and not bothered by it. He looked at the rest of the goal and was deciding where to put it. Once it was taken, the fans would find out that he had chosen to strike the ball to the right hand side of the net. The goalkeeper dived and in the correct direction, but was too late to stop it from powering into the far bottom right hand side of the net. It was placed perfectly. Precision and accuracy and power.
That’s not as easy as it sounds, you know. The more powerful a shot, the less accuracy it has. “Blasting” (striking extremely powerfully) a shot can cause it to travel very high or very wide of the goal on many occasions. Too much power, your shot will miss – You won’t score. Too little power and the goalkeeper will have no problem saving the shot which isn’t travelling very fast – You won’t score. To have both the right amount of power and accuracy with your shots on goal, you have to be skillful with your feet. You have to be a professional (footballer), basically. Nobody can doubt Milner’s skills. He’s a pro.
I’ve mentioned this before, but Milner is taking a lot of set pieces for Liverpool now. Corners, free kicks, penalties. He’s scored from free kicks and penalties and even assisted goals with his corners. So he’s a valuable asset for us, a player that’s contributing and proving his worth on the field. Academy players or perhaps even new transfers into the club should take notice of him, he’s an excellent example of how to prove your worth to the squad, the manager and the fans. Trusted enough to wear the captain’s armband, when Henderson doesn’t have it on. I’m also officially naming Milner as Man Of The Match for his efforts in bringing Liverpool to where we need to be… the next round of the Europa League. You don’t get to the Final instantly, it’s a slow progression over many fixtures. We just got one step closer to the Final, with James Milner’s goal.
Liverpool’s goal kept them busy for the rest of the game. Busy defending a lead and busy not allowing any goals at Anfield due to the previously mentioned away goals advantage. An equalizer for Augsburg would have been absolutely terrible for Liverpool. Our opponents would have had the chance to qualify without even scoring more goals than us, they could just draw their way to the next round. Big amounts of credit go to Lucas, Sakho, Mignolet, Clyne and Moreno, for being the defensive force that kept out goals, when that was what we needed. They came through for us and we appreciate their efforts. There can be only one Man Of The Match, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t value the defender’s contributions too. We love you guys, you’re our strong back line.
Fortunately, Augsburg haven’t been able to score in either of the two legs played and Liverpool have, so we are victorious on aggregate. Nothing spectacular – no curling free kicks, acrobatic overhead kicks or bicycle kicks or powerful headers from the edge of the penalty area were seen, but the goal we scored is no less important to the progression in the competition we want to win than any other goal that could have been scored. That we made it to the next round is what matters most.
So, we’re the winners and you might wonder who we’ll be playing in the next round of the Europa League… well, prepare for a shock.
Liverpool have been drawn against Manchester United in the last 16 of the Europa League.
We now can only make it to the Europa League quarter Finals if we beat our long time local English rivals.
It’s the first time an English club has had to face another English club in the UEFA Cup (now renamed Europa League) since Tottenham played Liverpool in 1973. Spurs had actually just won the UEFA Cup in 1972 so it was predicted that they were favourites to win but Liverpool went on to win the whole competition, even the UEFA Cup Final in 1973, against Borussia Monchengladbach. Now more than 40 years later, English clubs must play a fixture against each other in the UEFA Cup once again.
Manchester United have only been included in the Europa League last 16 because they “dropped out” (were knocked out) of the Champions League and can only compete in this European competition, for a while. It gives them a second chance for European glory… or shame (by more defeat in European competition). We’re ready to shame them as we go on to the Quarter Finals. We’ve wanted to bring trophies in for our new manager. We’ve wanted him to prove himself and there’s no better way to prove yourself than against another major English club. Even if we don’t win the competition, it will be something special if Liverpool beat Manchester United and make it to the Europa League Quarter Finals. That’s the kind of history people talk about for years.
Other teams we may face in the competition if we win (against Manchester United) and progress include Shakhtar Donetsk, Anderlecht, Basel, Sevilla, Villareal, Bayer Leverkusen, Atletico Bilbao, Valencia, Sparta Prague, Lazio, Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham Hotspurs, Fenerbahce or Braga. The only possible English club we could face in the Quarter Finals is Spurs. Perhaps history will repeat itself and Liverpool will meet them again for a UEFA Cup fixture for the first time since 1973. It could happen, but we’ll have to beat United first and Spurs will have to beat Jürgen Klopp’s former club Borussia Dortmund before the fixture can happen in the next round. Klopp’s hard work and the squad he built are mostly still there, even with their new manager in control of them now. It won’t be easy. Anything can and does happen in football, though.
As we keep on making our way through the fixture list, we now have an important fixture coming up next. IT’S TIME FOR THE LEAGUE CUP FINAL! Liverpool will face Manchester City at Wembley in a chance for Jürgen Klopp to win his first trophy in his very first season at the club. THIS IS BIG! There will be celebrations around Liverpool and all around the world for everyone in a Red shirt if we win this.
So, just walk on with hope in your heart and You’ll Never Walk Alone, Anfield Family.
[written by] Stuart Drewery.
I’m an Englishman (born and raised in Liverpool in the 80s). My whole family including my parents and grandparents were Liverpool fans so I was born into being a red.
I’ve seen Liverpool win the league (about 25 years ago) and I’ve been 100% loyal and committed while supporting the Reds through all the good times AND the bad times since the 80s.