TSG 1899 Hoffenheim officially qualified for the 2020/21 Europa League knockouts with a 2-0 win over Sloven Liberec in the Czech Republic.
|Christoph Baumgartner.||Photo: Silesia711, CC-by-SA 4.0|
Sebastian Hoeneß's Kraichgauer remained undefeated through four rounds of the 2020/21 Europa League group stages. In point of fact, the Sinsheimers have taken maximum points from a by-no-means unchallenging group.
Meeting a well-rested Sloven Liberec team for the second time in three weeks, Hoeneß rotated out seven outfielders. Among the non-regulars in his starting XI, Brazilian striker Klauss and 18-year-old prospect Maximilian Beier paired up front to lead the attack in a tight 4-4-2 diamond. Young Melayro Bogarde also got a rare start at right back.
Hoeneß clearly constructed a shape intended to keep the many unfamiliar players close to each other. All the same, it took time for creative football to emerge. Despite 75 percent possession and an 86 parent pass completion rate, the German visitors weren't able to build anything especially threatening until late in the first half.
With little happening as the hour mark neared, Hoeneß brought on the big guns in Andrej Kramaric and Ihlas Bebou. The substitutes, which also included Danish utility man Robert Skov, did up the temp of the game a bit. It was two of the starters, however, who combined to open the scoring in the 78th. Bogarde served up Christoph Baumgartner, who supplied a neat finish from 17 meters out.
Kramaric later sealed the deal with a converted handball penalty one minute from the end of normal time.