SINSHEIM, Germany — Jurgen Klopp says he forced Trent Alexander-Arnold to be on free kick-taking duty as the youngster scored his first goal for Liverpool in the 2-1 win over Hoffenheim on Tuesday night.
Alexander-Arnold, 18, broke the deadlock in the first leg of the Champions League playoff with a long-range free-kick in the first half.
James Milner added the second goal before Mark Uth netted late on to keep the tie alive, although Hoffenheim need to score at least two goals at Anfield in a week’s time.
“He is an incredible young player,” Klopp told a news conference. “I told him he had to take it — he can shoot free kicks better than I ever could. But I don’t want the credit for it!
“I have to say for an 18-year-old, who has the balls to take a free kick like that, it is rather more exciting and interesting for me than a little mistake he makes.
“I told him to take it because I watched him many times for the Under-23s last season. He took the free kicks then and, by the way, the goal is the same size.
“There is a big challenge after training between him and Ben Woodburn. They are both good and both improving.
“It was a bit lucky as the wall didn’t jump but it was a very good free kick and very important for us.
“It was an intense game for Trent. He still has some things to learn. He thought their goal was offside but it was unfortunately not offside. Trent is a great player and I have to say I’d rather win 2-1 than 1-0.”
Alexander-Arnold, who grew up a short distance from Liverpool’s Melwood training ground, says his goal was the stuff of dreams.
“Obviously it’s a thing of dreams to make your European debut for your boyhood club, and to mark it with a goal as well is very special,” he told BT Sport.
“But most importantly we got the win. We’re disappointed to concede the goal, but it’s nice to take a lead back to Anfield.”
On his free-kick, the teenager added: “I kind of got egged on to do it, to be honest. I never put my hand up at first, but I had the confidence to finally take it and it paid off!”
Meanwhile, Hoffenheim boss Julian Nagelsmann believes his side were unfortunate to be on the losing side at the Rhein-Nekar-Arena.
“I feel that we played a really good match, especially in the first half,” he said at his postmatch news conference. “I think we had the better chances, the clearer chances.
“In general, I would say we weren’t the worst team today, but the less lucky team.”
The 30-year-old coach also said he has no concerns about playing the second leg at Anfield despite its reputation as a fortress on European nights.
He continued: “I don’t really make a difference between home or away matches, so I don’t really care.
“The only difference is the rule with away goals. I’m not really interested in that right now. There’s no difference concerning the fans’ songs — no one goes on and translates that.
“I can assure you that our commitment will be the same at Anfield. I know that we made a good match here and I can promise you that we will make a good match over there.”