Augsberg v Liverpool, Europa League Round of 32 First Leg, 18 Feb 2016
According to a story relayed by the late Emlyn Hughes in ‘Three Sides of the Mersey’--an oral history of Liverpool, Everton and Tranmere Rovers that I once picked up in the capital of Merseyside’s artsy-trendy-hipster Bluecoat Café and which I have just retrieved from my bookshelves for the express purpose of relating to you this story- the Liverpool fullback Joey Jones, finding himself locked in linguistic deadlock with a Paris street-food trader while attempting to order a plain omelette, started to run around the boulevards with his arms wide open, making engine noises and shouting ‘Plane! You know- plane! A plain omelette!’.
That was then, during the halcyon era of Liverpool’s European dominance (of its football, if not of its languages). This is now and a rather more cosmopolitan (if rather less pan-continental footballing dominant) Liverpool squad makes the trip to the provincial German outpost of Augsburg tonight, for what promises to be an intriguing encounter pitting Jurgen Klopp’s men against a Bundesliga outfit whose faltering domestic form sees them teetering near the relegation places in only their fifth season among Bayern and the big boys, meaning that tonight’s Europa League last 32 clash is being viewed locally as a welcome distraction from the spectre of the trapdoor.
The return of the visiting manager to his native shores adds of course a further dimension of intrigue to the encounter- although the man himself has sought to downplay his personal role in the upcoming drama, drily reassuring the the presscorps earlier today that ‘I was in Germany for 47 years, there shouldn’t be any surprises’- and adding for good measure ‘tonight would be the biggest game in Augsburg’s history, whether I was there or not’.
He’ll be there, and I’ll wager five Euros and/or an omelette of your choice right here and now he’ll be striding up and down the touchline come the appointed kick off time of 5 minutes past 8 in a pair of trendy and possibly pastel-framed media glasses, clapping his arms like a great big excited beaver and beaming a stream of positive thoughts to his red-shirted charges via the irrepressible medium of his broad and impressively maintained Teutonic dentistry. A line-up of charges, which if the word coming out of that press corps is to be believed, may see holding midfielder Lucas return, possibly in place of the slightly crocked Adam Lallana. Minute-by-minute report to follow from 20:00 or thereabouts.
19:12. Kick off minus 53m.
The teams are in. At least, the Liverpool team is in. Klopp’s gone for no changes from the team that saw off sorry Villa over the weekend, which means the now-fit Sturridge leads the line in the following visiting XI:
Mignolet; Clyne, Toure, Sakho, Moreno; Henderson, can, Milner; Firminho, Coutinho; Sturridge.
That is as revealed by the good folks at BT Sport, who are currently bringing us a lacklustre Fiorentina- Tottenham (is it just me, or does the teatime kick off in these European double-headers always lack lustre?) – oh, hold on, the home side have just equalised with a deflected 30 yarder, 1-1. ‘Game On’, growls pundit Clive Allen, emerging from the cat-like stupor which has afflicted him for the first hour of play. Might be worth keeping an eye on the last 30 here…
19:25. Kick off minus 43.
I was about to say to you, until we were rudely interrupted by a 35 yard piledriver into the top corner of the Spurs net, that the encounter had been enlivened only by Mauriccio Pocettini’s sideline impersonation, with his dark grey overcoat, sensible black leather shoes and persistent keen-eyed watchfulness, of the junior partner in a 1980s TV Detective double-act. Since the goal however, it’s been a different story and even in fact a viable football match, with Fiorentina on top and the crowd, Clive-Allenesque in their slumbers for the first 55 minutes, positively roaring them on. As we speak a cushioned header from the clever home forward Moreno just fails to pick out a team-mate in the box, and the embattled Spurs custodian Worm claims the loose ball. He might have to be on his guard for the next 20 minutes or so.
19:35. Kick off minus- ah, work it out yourself.
You might be wondering who the Fiorentina scorer was. It was Bernarderschi. Kane is on for the visitors, he’s just had a snapshot from wide left, 15 yards, gathered comfortably by the home keeper.
Ooh, United are losing 2-1 to some unheard-of Danes. Taxi for Van Gaal?
Bernarderschi is a growing influence for the hosts. Here he sweeps a crossfield ball which leads to the concession of a corner by the retreating Spurs backline, then clips in an inviting nearpost corner that no home forward can make effective use of. Spurs do look occasionally threatening on the break though. Ooh- Ali, from a right wing cross, attempts an overhead volley that clears the bar by two yards. Two minutes plus stoppage time left in Florence.
‘A job well done by Tottenham’ is the TV verdict, and it’s hard to disagree, even if visiting supersub Harry Kane did look to be doing his level best to enliven injury time by having himself sent-off for a brace of wandering elbow-strikes into the general skull areas of his man-marker. A yellow was all he got for his trouble, and the Spurs come away with an away goal and some level pegging to take back to what TV commentators rather cloyingly/blokishly have started to refer to as ‘the Lane’: 1-1.
Final results in from the other teatime kickoffs and the pick is that 2-1 reversal for Van Gaal’s men in Denmark. Headline writers all over Britain scratching their craniums and pondering on Viking-related barbs for us to chortle at over our Friday morning Rice Krispies. Who’d be a manager, eh? Eh? Eh??
Steve McManaman, Jermaine Jenas and David James are in the BT Studio building up to the Liverpool clash, the three of them looking dapper and each of them with a hairstyle entirely unchanged from their playing days. Right now they are debating Dele Ali and whether his hotheadedness, as evidenced by the nearly-sending-off in the first half at Florence, shows a ‘side that he needs to cut out of his game’. James is the odd man out in the debate, counterarguing that the young Englishman’s aggression is an asset you wouldn’t want to dampen.
The studio debaters are interrupted by Jurgen Klopp live from the undercarriage of the Augsburg Arena and looking relaxed, as he may well be, what with there being no surprises in Germany where he lived for 47 years etc (see preamble). Back in the studio McManaman is musing over Liverpool’s chances of ‘finishing this one off in the first leg’ which appears maybe a touch over-optimistic, especially as the cameras pan to a full-to-the-rafters stadium packed with home supporters not looking like a fanbase expecting their favourites to roll over and be dispatched at the first time of asking. Of course, they could all be wrong, and Steve McManaman could be right.
20:06. One minute late for kick off! Exchanges of pennants in the centre circle, as the TV mikes pick up the Spanish referee wishing both captains ‘Good Luck’ in impeccable English.
Early threat from Augsburg as centre forward Bobadilla runs on to a long ball through the channel and just misses connecting with an outstretched left leg, edge of the box, Mignolet advancing to claim with relief. Bouncing atmosphere in the stands.
Home forward Bobadilla- Paraguayan-Argentinian, we are informed- has announced himself as the man to watch early on. First he dribbles slightly awkwardly on to the edge of the box only to be thwarted by a combination of visiting defenders, then he latches on to a half-cleared cross and fires over. Then he chases a ball into the corner flag and comes away clutching a hamstring. The neutral (if he’s in tonight) will be hoping he recovers to exert his influence on this one.
Liverpool have a free kick wide left and will be glad of it, relieving some early pressure. It comes to nothing though and Augsburg are able to break and win a dead ball of their own on halfway.
Firminho should score for Liverpool after slack home defending leaves him bearing down on goal. A tame effort is easily claimed by home goalie Hitz. Maybe McManaman is right, maybe the floodgates could open. The Germans look no-one’s fools though.
Esswein swings in a cross, hacked away by Toure. But pressure continues from the home side who are looking to expose Liverpool down their flanks in the opening stages. Meanwhile Danny Murphy on the pundit’s chair has spent the last 8 minutes keeping tabs on the hosts’ injury-impaired Paraguayan-Argentinian dangerman and reckons his time may soon be up. Somewhere in the stands, the neutral (if he’s in tonight, he usually is) winces.
A lull. The first of an unusually feisty opening quarter of a European first-leg.
Still kinda-lulling. Sturridge momentarily looks likely on the left of the area, but is crowded out.
First card of the game and it ‘s for home midfielder Janker, for what used to be called an ‘overenthusiastic’ lunge into the legs of Sakho as the two contested a ball 60-40 in the visiting player’s favour. From the resulting freekick Liverpool build patiently, the move ending in a lovely threaded ball from Firminho which Sturridge is a stud away from connecting with on the edge of the goal area.
Ah, the neutral will be crying into his neatly-folded matchday programme. Bobadilla, as predicted by Dr Danny Murphy, is off. A lively looking Brazilian whose name I didn’t catch comes on in his stead.
First sighting of the referee’s aerosol can as an Augsburg freekick situation (C Big Ron Atkinson) sees Liverpool line up one of those pointless two man walls, forty yards out wide left. The kick comes to ought. (I think I may use this minute by minute report to attempt single handedly to promote the phrase ‘comes to ought’ as a viable item of footballing parlance. Wish me luck).
Is it even a phrase, I mean in English- ‘come to ought’? I’m starting to have second thoughts. Augsburg are passing the ball around safely but ineffectively in their own half, until Klopp’s men remember about the ‘pressing’ thing and press the goalie into a hasty clearance.
Liverpool full back Moreno bundles his way into the environs of the right edge of the home penalty area, until he meets a German shepherd who fullbacks it out for a goalkick (or was it the other way round)? Danny Murphy is roused to reminisce about his habitual response to a defender doing the shepherding thing to his ass back in his playing day, which was apparently to give them a swift kick in the shins. And not a jury in the land, etc.
It’s been lively. But it needs a goal. Or maybe a sending off. Or the pitch invaded by a plague of hornets. That last one’s unlikely. It’s minus five out there.
A high, dipping right wing cross from fullback Verhagh is claimed, without undue fuss, by Reds’ custodian Mignolet.
As the home substitute essays an aesthetically pleasing dribble in midfield, the commentary box praises a ‘Brazilian moment on a rather Baltic evening’. Not wanting to question the boys’ command of geography, but I believe the correct positioning of the evening may be ‘Bavarian’. I know, because I looked it up on Wikipedia during a quiet moment in Fiorentina vs Tottenham.
To be fair to them, I think they were referring to the weather.
Augsburg free kick wide on the right, an area they have threatened from plenty in open play. It comes to…
--- ought. Well, not quite ought. Actually a half-clearance leads to a shot, which leads to a corner. Which Marcus Feuner will take. This one does indeed come to – well, you know.
You know when a game is full of hustle and bustle, but at the same time has 0-0 written all over it? That’s what we have here, I fear. I don’t suppose Klopp and his men would mind.
Watch, it will finish 3-3 now. With a dog on the pitch. Steffalini, as if to disprove this last prognosis, blasts an audacious 35 yarder half a mile wide of Mignolet’s left upright.
Loose pass from Feulner self-thwarts a promising right sided break by the hosts. The commentator is remarking to no-one in particular (well to us, I suppose) that the Germans have been excellent hosts during his Bavarian work-related stay; never a sign we are in 6-goal thriller territory.
Steffaliis whips in a great cross that Milner does well to clear, then Liverpool break but are broken back against, like, you know, in a tennis match. Esswein, in the best chance of the half, sees Mignolet parry when he should have done better having been played clear through right of the box. Augsburg come again and this time Werner is an inch away from connecting with a cross that Mignolet takes bravely off his studs.
45 mins + 1
That last minute contained more action than most of the preceding 44 put together. I’m going to revise my forecast: 1-0 to .. someone.
I’m off to the fridge for a second bottle of Warsteiner (it’s from Bavaria, via the Spar shop, so it counts as an exercise in cultural discovery). Back in 15, so.
Never one to shirk my geographical responsibilities (unlike those shirkers in the commentary box) I can inform you that Warstein, of Warsteiner lager fame, is in fact not even slightly in Bavaria, but in fact in the district of North-Rhine Westphalia, at the opposite end of the actually-quite-big country of Germany. Who’d a thought it?
45 mins.(but the second half version).
We’re underway. Big news of the first five seconds of the half is that the co-commentator I have been referring to thus far as Danny Murphy turns out to be not even slightly Danny Murphy, but actually Michael Owen (I deduce this, Manual Poccetino-style, from the way the main commentator opens his second half babble by enquiring, ‘so what do you make of it so far, Michael?’. My apologies to all concerned.
Henderson should do better from the left edge of the box than loft a sloppy chip into the arms of Hitz. He was adjudged offside already (incorrectly, replays show), but still…
Perhaps its just me, but ever since I deduced, in the style of TV detective Manual Poccetino, that the co-commentator masquerading as Danny Murphy was in fact ex-Newcastle flop Michael Owen, I’ve been altogether less impressed, and even very slightly irritated, by his commentary style. Right now he praises a ‘good solid line’ by Liverpool’s back four, which does indeed render several home forwards offside.
An outbreak of utterly gorgeous football by the visitors, Firminho (I think) steps over a sideways through pass on the edge of the box leading to space wide for (I think/ hope) Coutinho. The wideman’s pullback just fails to pick out one of a number of onrushing forward types. Best of the half so far, and a sign of what Klopp’s men are capable of given a yard of space.
Good spell for the ‘Pool this. Milner is played through to the deadball line wide right and drills in a low ball which Sturridge should probably do better than stab wide of the far post from point-blank range. The co-commentator formerly known as Danny Murphy reckons it was a forgiveable miss, but I would beg to differ. It was almost in grandmother territory.
You know, as in ‘my grandmother could have put that one away’. Moments later mind you Sturridge sashays inside of his fullback twenty five yards out and curls one that the goalie needs to move sharply to claim farpost, which is the sort of forward play I can’t remember featuring prominently in the career of my grandmother.
To be fair to her, she was a holding midfield player. Liverpool had a corner somewhere along the way there. It came to ought.
Free kick to the reds in the sort of right side area the referee will think about getting his aerosol out for, no hold on it’s a bit further out than that. Henderson to take..
And it’s nearly an own goal as full back Verhaegh, facing his own goal following a semi-scramble, is relieved to see his fluffed knee-clearance bobble into his goalie’s grasp. This could finish 3-3, mark my words.
Last half hour. It’s doing that ‘opening up’ thing that games tend to do around about what we in the business like to call ‘the hour mark’. If there’s not a goal by 75 mins I’ll eat my omelette.
How long does a team need to retain possession in the opponent’s half to be considered ‘encamped’ there? If the answer is ‘three minutes’ then Liverpool have got their tentpegs out. Milner drives in a cross which is cleared. Hold on, break for Augsburg, Open, open spell this. Like, you know, an open sandwich. Or an open university. Or an open, er, sesame.
Sorry, lost myself for a moment there. Now then what do we have? Moreno shoots in a speculative half volley which is blocked, but the game remains open and Augsburg look to counter.
Caibi is a half yard short of beating Taibi to a through ball and being through on goal left side. Liverpool substitution sees Sturridge replaced by Origi (not by Benteke, as a suddenly quite arch commentary box is keen to point out).
Origi’s first contribution is to make a gangly diagonal run into the box before receiving then being dispossessed of a through ball. Liverpool come again down the right, and after Clyne’s cross is only half-cleared, his opposite fullback Moreno sends in a stinging bouncing drive whch tests the goalie from fully 25 yards. Corner.
You can guess what the corner came to (it begins with ‘ough’). Although maybe Henderson could have done better with an unchallenged half volley lob from 25 yards out, central, than spoon it safely over.
Liverpool’s best openings have come down the right, and invariably Milner’s crosses have played their part. This one has Origi’s name written all over it six yards out, until a desperate clearance intervenes.
What was that about an omelette? Hang on, the Augsburg goalie came off his line like that Peruvian in the 1978 world cup there, only he ended up with the ball in his safe possession and there was no need for hilarity of any kind, so you can stop laughing at the back. This is elite European football here I will have you know young man, not some kind of music hall show.
Deep into omelette time, stefalidis should score for the hosts but scuffs a shot wide after a cross picks him out from the right.
I’ll get me frying pan.
Milner, who must be what now- 44 years of age?- has covered every blade of the WWK arena turf or I’m 80s TV detective Mauricio Pochetino’s elder sidekick. Here he goes down under a legitimate if slightly shepherd-like challenge from Verhaegh (I think) but there is no real possibility of a penalty. He’s game though, the boy/man/veteran from Leeds.
‘All we are singing’… (I sing to myself, here on the sofa with a second bottle of North Rhine Westphalia’s famed Warsteiner for company) ‘..is give us a goal’. Milner is off for Liverpool. Old and knackered, what was I saying….
Ibe is on for the Reds. He runs at Steffalein, but the Greek shepherd shepherds him out for a goalkick. Topclass shepherding tonight by all concerned. Worthy of Mick Mills in his pomp.
Augsburg threaten down the right, but Esswein plays a foolish ball to an offside colleague, incurring the wrath of Murphy/Owen, who thinks he needs to ‘understand the game better’. Bet he won’t repeat that to his face in the Green room in 10 minutes.
… the lily livered little bleeder. Jordan Ibe scuffs one in from 18 yards right side, easy claim for the goalie. On the break, a great half-volley from the penalty area mark by one of Augsburg’s South Koreans is the closest to a goal all night, shaving the post with Mignolet nowhere. Still time for a winner here. I did say 1-0 to someone, did I not?
Coutinho snaps one in from range, left side after a sharp visiting break. There’s a deflection, for a corner, which is cleared, but Firminho (who come to think of it we have mentioned very little tonight) is nearly able to get onto a subsequent cross ball on the edge of the area. He fouls his shepherd though, and the sheepdog, sorry I mean the referee, blows for the infringement.
There’ll be two more minutes here. Liverpool will surely be happy with the draw while believing they could have had more. The hosts mind you will say exactly the same.
It’s all over. An initially edgy/hedgy, but increasingly open and even at intervals cavalier encounter ends, perhaps surprisingly, 0-0. I’m off for that omelette (who am I kidding, I’m off for a third Warsteiner). Thank you for listening/ reading, and goodnight.