Champions League

Can double gets Liverpool back into big time

2017-08-23 23:15
Emre Can (Getty Images)

Liverpool - Emre Can struck twice as Liverpool convincingly defeated Hoffenheim 4-2 at Anfield on Wednesday to reach the Champions League group phase for only the second time since 2010.

Germany midfielder Can found the net twice in the opening 21 minutes, either side of Mohamed Salah's first Anfield goal following his move from Roma, before substitute Mark Uth replied for the visitors.

Hoffenheim old boy Roberto Firmino netted a fourth goal in the second half and Sandro Wagner's late header proved anecdotal as Jurgen Klopp's men completed a 6-3 aggregate victory.

Now unbeaten in 15 home games against German teams, Liverpool will learn their group-stage opponents in Thursday's draw in Monaco, which will feature five English clubs for the first time.

Liverpool join Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, who qualified via the Premier League, and Manchester United, who engineered their own Champions League return by winning last season's Europa League.

Liverpool will be making their first appearance in the Champions League proper since 2014-15, when they were eliminated in the group stage.

Klopp was once again without Barcelona target Philippe Coutinho, who is both ill and nursing a sore back, but the sizzling interplay of Firmino and Sadio Mane meant he was not missed.

The five-time European champions took a 10th-minute lead against continental first-timers Hoffenheim courtesy of the first of several delightful interchanges between their forward players.

Firmino's delicately weighted through-ball freed Mane and he back-heeled the ball into the path of Can, whose shot found the net via a heavy deflection off the sliding Havard Nordtveit.

Egyptian winger Salah struck in the 18th minute, tapping in from close range after Georginio Wijnaldum's shot from Firmino's left-wing cut-back bounced back off the right-hand post.

Three minutes later another Mane back-heel yielded another goal, the Senegal winger's touch releasing Firmino, whose cross was adroitly volleyed home by Can.

Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann took swift action, sending on forward Uth for defender Nordtveit, and four minutes later Dejan Lovren's loose pass allowed the substitute to reduce the arrears with an angled drive.

After Wijnaldum and Mane had gone close, Liverpool added a fourth in the 63rd minute when skipper Jordan Henderson robbed his Hoffenheim counterpart Kevin Vogt and charitably teed up Firmino for a tap-in.

Wagner completed the scoring with a header from Andrej Kramaric's left-wing cross, but by then all hope of a Hoffenheim comeback had vanished.

Sporting Lisbon thrashed Romanian outfit FCSB 5-1 in Bucharest as the visitors scored four second-half goals after Seydou Doumbia's 13th-minute opener was cancelled out by home defender Junior Morais.

Marcos Acuna, Gelson Martins, Bas Dost and Rodrigo Battaglia were all on target for Sporting who blew their opponents in Romania away following last week's 0-0 draw in the Portuguese capital.

Dino Ndlovu grabbed the vital goal as Qarabag became the first team from Azerbaijan to reach the group stage, qualifying on away goals despite a 2-1 defeat away to FC Copenhagen.

Georgi Schennikov and Alan Dzagoev scored as CSKA Moscow downed Switzerland's Young Boys 2-0 in Russia to wrap up a 3-0 aggregate victory, while APOEL of Cyprus progressed 2-0 overall a following goalless stalemate at Slavia Prague.

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Fixtures
Tuesday, 31 October 2017
Celtic v Bayern Munchen, Celtic Park 21:45
Sporting CP v Juventus, Estadio Jose Alvalade 21:45
Atletico Madrid v Qarabag, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 21:45
Manchester United v Benfica, Old Trafford 21:45
PSG v Anderlecht, Parc des Princes 21:45
Basel v CSKA Moskva, St. Jakob-Park 21:45
Olympiakos Piraeus v Barcelona, Stadio Georgios Karaiskaki 21:45
Roma v Chelsea, Stadio Olimpico 21:45
Wednesday, 01 November 2017
Besiktas v Monaco, Vodafone Stadyumu 19:00
Liverpool v Maribor, Anfield 21:45
Porto v RB Leipzig, Estadio Do Dragao 21:45
Sevilla v Spartak Moskva, Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan 21:45
Shakhtar Donetsk v Feyenoord, Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist 21:45
Borussia Dortmund v APOEL, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:45
Napoli v Manchester City, Stadio San Paolo 21:45
Tottenham Hotspur v Real Madrid, Wembley Stadium 21:45
Tuesday, 21 November 2017
Spartak Moskva v Maribor, Otkrytiye Arena 19:00
Besiktas v Porto, Vodafone Stadyumu 19:00
Sevilla v Liverpool, Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan 21:45
Manchester City v Feyenoord, Etihad Stadium 21:45
APOEL v Real Madrid, Neo GSP 21:45
Borussia Dortmund v Tottenham Hotspur, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:45
Monaco v RB Leipzig, Stade Louis II. 21:45
Napoli v Shakhtar Donetsk, Stadio San Paolo 21:45
Wednesday, 22 November 2017
Qarabag v Chelsea, Bakı Olimpiya Stadionu 19:00
CSKA Moskva v Benfica, VEB Arena 19:00
Juventus v Barcelona, Allianz Stadium 21:45
Sporting CP v Olympiakos Piraeus, Estadio Jose Alvalade 21:45
Atletico Madrid v Roma, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 21:45
PSG v Celtic, Parc des Princes 21:45
Basel v Manchester United, St. Jakob-Park 21:45
Anderlecht v Bayern Munchen, Stade Constant Vanden Stock 21:45
Tuesday, 05 December 2017
Bayern Munchen v PSG, Allianz-Arena 21:45
Barcelona v Sporting CP, Camp Nou 21:45
Celtic v Anderlecht, Celtic Park 21:45
Benfica v Basel, Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (da Luz) 21:45
Manchester United v CSKA Moskva, Old Trafford 21:45
Olympiakos Piraeus v Juventus, Stadio Georgios Karaiskaki 21:45
Roma v Qarabag, Stadio Olimpico 21:45
Chelsea v Atletico Madrid, Stamford Bridge 21:45
Wednesday, 06 December 2017
Liverpool v Spartak Moskva, Anfield 21:45
Porto v Monaco, Estadio Do Dragao 21:45
Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu 21:45
Maribor v Sevilla, Ljudski vrt 21:45
Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City, Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist 21:45
RB Leipzig v Besiktas, Red Bull Arena 21:45
Feyenoord v Napoli, Stadion Feijenoord 21:45
Tottenham Hotspur v APOEL, Wembley Stadium 21:45
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