Jürgen Klopp hailed Trent Alexander-Arnold’s courage and revealed he told the teenager to take the free-kick that sent Liverpool on their way to a valuable Champions League play-off win away at Hoffenheim.
The 18-year-old defender marked his Champions League debut with a first senior goal for his boyhood club as Liverpool recorded a 2-1 win in the first leg in Germany. A deflected James Milner cross doubled the visitors’ lead before the Hoffenheim substitute Mark Uth set up a tense finale and delicately poised second leg at Anfield next Wednesday, with an 87th-minute goal for Julian Nagelsmann’s side.
Alexander-Arnold appealed in vain for offside for Uth’s strike but it was his stunning free-kick that had the greater impact for Liverpool, who survived an early penalty when Simon Mignolet saved a dreadful effort from Andrej Kramaric.
“I have to say for an 18-year-old to have the balls to kick a free-kick like that is more interesting and exciting for me than a little mistake he made,” said Klopp. “It was an intensive game for him. He has still some things to learn. He thought it was offside but it was obviously not offside, unfortunately. Trent is a great player and I have to say I would rather have 2-1 than 1-0.”
Emre Can and Alberto Moreno both shaped to take the free-kick before Liverpool’s homegrown right-back swept the ball beyond Oliver Baumann. And Klopp admitted: “He took it because I told him he has to do it. I don’t take credit for the free-kick because he takes them better than I ever could. But I watched as many under-23 games as I could last season and he took many of the free-kicks then. The goal is the same size even if the wall is not as tall. There is always a big challenge between him and Ben Woodburn with free-kicks after training. It was good. He was lucky the wall didn’t jump but it was a very important moment for us.”
Alexander-Arnold, who grew up close to Liverpool’s training ground in West Derby and joined the club’s academy aged six, reflected: “It is a thing of dreams to make your European debut for your boyhood club and to make it with a goal was very special for me. I 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.”
Klopp said Liverpool had allowed Hoffenheim possession in unthreatening areas during the game, a view that did not go down well with his opposite number. “I don’t agree,” countered Nagelsmann. “We had the ball in many important spaces.He has to say that and defend his team. He can’t say, ‘Hoffenheim played great and we were shit.’”
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