Roberto Firmino sent a message out to those watching around Europe, as well as those who have doubted it him over recent weeks, during Liverpool’s 4-2 win over Hoffenheim – ‘this is what I’m capable of’.
The brilliant Brazilian put on a masterclass leading the line for Jürgen Klopp’s team in what was a devastating display with the Reds putting on a show and flexing their attacking muscles, even without the services of the injured Philippe Coutinho.
Sadio Mané is rightly being lauded for his role in the win and Emre Can is getting the plaudits for his two-goal heroics. The team as a whole deserve a lot of credit after stepping up to the plate after unconvincing performances in their previous three matches.
But special praise should be reserved for the former Hoffenheim attacker who had the bit between his shiny white teeth.
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It was a performance that let everybody know just what it is he does for the team, and why Klopp continues to keep faith with him as the striker in his system.
More often than not his use of the ball can let him down, but against the Bundesliga side what he did on the ball watched what he did off of it in terms of quality.
He grabbed a goal and an assist, the second time he’s done so this season having achieved the feat against Watford. On another day, however, he could’ve easily walked away from Anfield having been involved in five goals.
Oliver Baumann saved a Firmino effort from point blank range in the first half, Mané missed an opportunity inside of two minutes after the Brazilian played an incisive pass through the Hoffenheim backline and Gini Wijnaldum hit the post after Firmino had teased a defender before he picked the Dutchman out with a perfectly weighted pass.
Fortunately for the Reds, Mohamed Salah swept home the rebound.
Firmino’s part in the Liverpool show was eye-opening. For some time now he’s had question marks over him. Is he consistent enough? Can he be relied upon to put the ball in the back of the net? and finally, can he perform without his compatriot Coutinho?
He emphatically answered all three of those with a remarkable performance throughout the entire match. He stepped out of Coutinho’s shadow to lead Liverpool into the Champions League group stages.
It wasn’t just the odd moment he impressed in, he was involved in almost everything good on the night. It was reminiscent of a certain Uruguayan who used to call Anfield home, just a little more refined in his approach.
He played the pass to Mané before the former Southampton man back heeled it into the path of Can and the German fired home.
He was also pivotal in the third goal after firstly dropping deep into the space vacated by Wijnaldum to lay the ball off to the Liverpool No.5 who masterfully played the ball into the space Firmino created for Mané to race onto.
Firmino made up the ground to support the Senegalese speedster before his dinked pass was lashed home by Can at the back post. Liverpool were rampant and the Brazilian was the instigator.
The man creating the space which allowed Mané and Salah to be at their destructive best. He was even switching with the two wingers to take up positions in the channels. Hoffenheim would then have to switch their style to combat this.
It was just a rotisserie of pace, intelligent movement and goals for the Reds.
Klopp was impressed and after the match took the opportunity to rave about his striker, saying: “What a game Firmino had today!
“He gave the opportunity to the two quick boys on the wing, that they could have one-on-one situations that they used outstandingly well again.
“He’s probably the most underestimated player in world football. He is unbelievable.”
Klopp wasn’t the only one singing his praises. Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard was praising Firmino on BT Sport.
“Every time Liverpool won possession, the switch of play, because the line was so high with the back three, they caused them all sorts of problems,” said the former Reds captain.
“Firmino’s performance has been absolutely stunning. His quality, his vision, he keeps getting Liverpool players in.
“Every time Firmino gets the ball, if you’re a runner in this team, your eyes light up and you get on your bike.
“He drops in deep, lays the ball off and this little dink with your left foot to put it on a plate for Can is world class.”
It’s close to two years since the Daily Mail wrote an article following the sacking of Brendan Rodgers and used the £29million spent on Firmino as a stick to beat Liverpool’s infamous ‘Transfer Committee’ with.
‘The committee have yet to explain how they came up with the figure of £29million to sign Brazilian forward Firmino from Hoffenheim, who finished eighth in the Bundesliga last season.’
He now looks like a bargain and the Liverpool recruitment team were justified in their willingness to pay close to £30million for the forward.
After the match Paul Joyce of The Times revealed the Reds planned to offer Firmino a new contract. It’s a smart move. The 25-year-old is coming into the prime of his career and if he’s able to replicate his performance against Hoffenheim on a regular basis then some of Europe’s elite clubs will come knocking.