Early James Milner penalty helps Liverpool edge past Augsburg

25 February 2016 08:53

Liverpool scraped past Augsburg and into the last 16 of the Europa League after a nervy 1-0 win at Anfield.

James Milner's fifth-minute penalty proved decisive but despite creating a number of chances it was far from convincing.

However, the job was completed, just, without too much damage - and the need for energy-sapping extra-time - to allow Jurgen Klopp and his players to concentrate on Sunday's Capital One Cup final against Manchester City.

Aside from the result the real positive was another 65 minutes in the bank for Daniel Sturridge, making his third consecutive start for the first time since last March, who looked Liverpool's most dangerous player and will be the key man again at Wembley.

Even before kick-off the numbers were loaded in Liverpool's favour as they had played German opposition 16 times at Anfield and never lost, winning 13 matches and keeping 12 clean sheets.

But those figures hardly added up to much in the context of a game which became increasingly tense with such a slender lead.

Following a scare after just 46 seconds when Caiuby fired over after being given a free run through, the hosts settled into their stride and were ahead by the fifth minute.

Dominik Kohr and Caiuby got themselves in a tangle trying to deal with Jordan Henderson's cross resulting in the former handling.

Milner tucked the penalty inside Marwin Hitz's left-hand post and just out of the reach of the goalkeeper for his second successive spot-kick in home European games.

Liverpool's attacking trio of Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino were displaying a greater understanding of each other on their third consecutive start together and that caused Augsburg plenty of problems in the final third.

It was only the smart reactions of Hitz which kept the score to 1-0 at half-time as he saved from Coutinho, brilliantly tipped over Firmino's deflection and denied Sturridge at the same near post with another outstanding low stop.

But despite their dominance there was the occasional concern at the other end with Simon Mignolet palming away left-back Kostas Stafylidis' shot and Caiuby rolling a shot wide having rounded the goalkeeper from a short backpass by midfielder-turned-centre-back Lucas Leiva.

Sturridge should have put the game beyond Augsburg just after the break when a misplaced pass by Christoph Janker was returned by Coutinho but, having side-stepped Ragnar Klavan, he rolled a right-footed shot wide of the far post.

It was his last meaningful action as Divock Origi replaced him just after the hour but, with Augsburg sensing their chance, Mignolet had one dash to the edge of his area to beat Tobias Werner to a dangerous through-ball.

Hitz's superb reactions were tested again when Origi's cross was deflected at him by team-mate Halil Altintop and then Henderson stabbed the ball at him from seven yards.

The final 10 minutes was the most nervy of affairs as, after substitute Jan Moravek volleyed wide, the majority of the hearts inside Anfield skipped a beat as Stafylidis's 89th-minute free-kick dropped just over the crossbar.

Having fallen at this hurdle on their last two attempts, the latest 12 months ago in a penalty shoot-out against Besiktas, progress has at least been made.

TWEET OF THE MATCH

"Shoulda been done and dusted earlier in the game!Thankfully seen it through nervously!to get further we need to be far more clinical.Ynwa"

John Aldridge @Realaldo474

https://twitter.com/Realaldo474/status/702944871267569665

PLAYER RATINGS

Simon Mignolet: 7 (out of 10)

Nathaniel Clyne: 6

Lucas Leiva: 7

Mamadou Sakho: 7

Alberto Moreno: 6

Jordan Henderson: 5

Emre Can: 6

James Milner: 5

Roberto Firmino: 5

Philippe Coutinho: 7

Daniel Sturridge: 8

Substitutes

Divock Origi (on for Sturridge, 65): 6

Joao Carlos Teixeira (on for Coutinho, 80): 6

STAR MAN

Daniel Sturridge. The striker did not score but looked Liverpool's liveliest attacker and should have registered his maiden European goal for the club.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

Dominik Kohr's handball which led to James Milner's early penalty, settling some early nerves at Anfield.

VIEW FROM THE BENCH

Jurgen Klopp looked less than satisfied with much of the performance throughout and was even less than impressed with five minutes of added time with his side hanging on, but he was able to make key substitutions - resting Sturridge and Coutinho ahead of Sunday's Capital One Cup final - without affecting the result.

MOAN OF THE MATCH

Liverpool's set-pieces appear to get increasingly woeful as the season goes on and they never threatened from any free-kick or corner, often failing to even beat the first man.

WHO'S UP NEXT?

Liverpool v Manchester City (Capital One Cup final, Sunday February 28).

Klopp was unfazed by Liverpool's wastefulness in front of goal - and even joked his players were resting their shooting boots for Sunday.

He said on BT Sport Europe: "We keep them for the final, it's good preparation for the final now we know our way to goal!

"I'm not frustrated, football is like this. You have to create chances and we have the quality to score goals, everybody could see this.

"They had brilliant goalkeeping and sometimes the amount of luck you need. We could have done better but that's all. We had six or seven really, really good chances and that's enough.

"In another game, we will score goals for sure."

Klopp took heart from the Reds' display, particularly with his players focusing on the task at hand instead of letting their minds wander to the clash with City.

He added: "Everything is okay. We made the right decisions with the line-up, with the style of play.

"We were really, really lively from the first second on, we showed that we want this game and we were not in mind for the game on Sunday. That was a really good step tonight."

Liverpool captain Henderson also took the positives, but acknowledged their finishing needed to be better.

He said: "Yeah it is frustrating. I think we started the game well, created a lot of chances and should be scoring two or three and killing the game off early doors.

"If you don't do that then you give that a tough battle in the second half because you know they go through.

"Still a lot of positives to come out because we won the game and we look forward to Sunday now."

Source: PA


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