Liverpool 1-0 Augsburg (Agg: 1-0): James Milner penalty sees Reds progress
By Richard Morgan
Last Updated: 27/02/16 8:38am
Liverpool progressed to the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League after beating Augsburg 1-0 at Anfield thanks to James Milner's penalty.
Milner converted a fifth-minute spot-kick after a handball by Dominik Kohr to see his side's name in the hat for Friday's draw for the next phase of Europe's second-tier competition.
The Reds won the round-of-32 tie 1-0 on aggregate after the first leg had ended in a goalless draw last Thursday.
Jurgen Klopp made just the one change from that clash in Bavaria, with midfielder Lucas Leiva replacing Kolo Toure at the heart of Liverpool's defence, while centre-back Dejan Lovren missed out with illness.
Otherwise, the German fielded his strongest possible line-up, despite having to face Manchester City in Sunday's Capital One Cup final at Wembley.
Liverpool's manager had spoken pre-match about the need to make a fast start at Anfield, and that is exactly what his players did, albeit with some help from referee Clement Turpin, who awarded the hosts an early penalty.
Milner played a short corner to Jordan Henderson, who then swung a cross in from the right and under pressure from his own player Caiuby, Kohr handled the ball, with the French official deciding it was deliberate by the defender.
The England midfielder kept his cool from the spot by beating Marwin Hitz with a low shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net, despite the Augsburg goalkeeper diving the correct way.
Thereafter the Reds dominated the first period, without being able to find a way past Hitz - recently voted the best 'keeper in the Bundesliga - who made impressive saves to deny Brazilian duo Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino.
In fact, it seemed the only danger to Liverpool was either over confidence or a loss of concentration, the latter of which almost cost them dearly nine minutes before half-time when Lucas underhit a back past to Simon Mignolet.
However, despite rounding the Belgian 'keeper, Caiuby's effort from an acute angle was cleared off the line by the backtracking Mamadou Sakho in front of a relieved Kop.
Liverpool nearly extended their lead after 39 minutes after a nice interchange of passes between Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, only for Hitz to again come to his team's rescue by turning the latter's close-range shot against the outside of the post.
And it was Sturridge who went close to grabbing a crucial second goal early in the second half after being played through by Coutinho, only for the striker's effort to curl narrowly past the far post with Hitz for once beaten.
Klopp then opted to remove Sturridge with a quarter of the game remaining to protect his leading marksman for the weekend, and the Bundesliga strugglers appeared to grow in confidence as a result.
Mignolet was forced to race off his line to deny Tobias Werner a clean run on goal and after Coutinho and Henderson had both spurned chances to kill the tie off, the tension levels inside Anfield rose in the final 10 minutes.
However, the closest Augsburg came to grabbing the goal which would have knocked Liverpool out on the away goals rule came in the final minute when left-back Kostas Stafylidis' 25-yard free-kick curled just the wrong side of Mignolet's left-hand post.