Liverpool held out to beat Augsburg 1-0 in the Europa League Last 32 second-leg tonight, and in turn progress to the last 16.
An early Milner penalty was enough, although in truth we battered the Germans and the game should have been put to bed way before even the hour mark.
The first-half saw Liverpool play some of our best football of the season, especially at Anfield – without the reward it deserved.
Within the opening minutes we’d taken the lead though, thanks to a solid Milner penalty. The vice-skipper side-footed to the keeper’s left to put us in the driving seat, after some clumsy Augsburg defending saw their centre-half handle in the box.
Klopp’s men held a high line, and the midfielders simply got the ball forward to the dynamic front-three of Coutinho, Sturridge and Firmino at the earliest possible opportunity. Interestingly, Sturridge started on the right with Firmino in his false-9 role, although it was the latter who was less impressive in the opening 45 minutes.
It was our no.10 who was the best in the first 45, although he should have done better with this chance from a clever Sturridge pass.
— Liverpool Gifs (@LiverpoolGifs) February 25, 2016
Coutinho was his typical self, mesmeric on the ball but without the telling goal/assist to show for it, while Sturridge’s class was there for all to be seen. The striker hit the post after a pull-back from the Brazilian partner in crime, but we went in level at half-time.
The second-half started in a similar vein, and Klopp was left clutching his head in frustration at our inability to put the game beyond doubt.
Coutinho again did superbly by pressing the Augsburg defenders, earning Sturridge a chance, but the forward shot wide on his right foot. The opposition never threatened except from set-pieces, where they looked to deliver balls into our box at any dead-ball near the halfway line and beyond.
Sakho though looked increasingly assured than he has done in recent months, which is promising ahead of the City clash.
Our Brazilian magician had a shot blocked, one of 24 Liverpool efforts in total.
Sturridge left the field after the hour mark for Origi, who looked sharp, with Benteke notably left on the bench. Henderson missed an absolute sitter before Coutinho was withdrawn on the 80th minute – with the atmosphere in Anfield becoming increasingly tense.
How it was still 1-0 at this point was anyone’s guess, with Liverpool slaughtering the opponents to no avail. At least our two best players will be fit for the final, however.
But we were almost made to play late on, with a through-ball requiring good work from Mignolet to rush out and clear.
Stafylidis then curled a free-kick inches wide of Mignolet’s largely untested goal, and Liverpool began to count down the clock…
We thankfully held out, and came through without injuries ahead of Sunday. In terms of performance; largely excellent bar the finishing, and we’ll head into Sunday full of confidence.