Clinical Liverpool put six past Sparta and reach Europa League quarters

Match reportClinical Liverpool put six past Sparta and reach Europa League quarters

By Liverpool FC


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Liverpool booked their place in the Europa League quarter-finals after an emphatic 6-1 victory over Sparta Prague at Anfield on Thursday.

Leading 5-1 from last week’s last-16 first leg in Czechia, the Reds scored four goals in the opening 14 minutes of the return meeting, via Darwin Nunez, Bobby Clark, Mohamed Salah and Cody Gakpo.

Sparta pulled one back before half-time, but Dominik Szoboszlai grabbed a fifth for Jürgen Klopp’s side shortly after the interval, and Gakpo flicked Harvey Elliott’s shot home for his second of the night to make it 6-1 and complete an 11-2 aggregate win.

The Reds will discover their last-eight opponents when the draw is made in Switzerland on Friday.

Team news

Klopp made four changes from the side that had started last Sunday’s Premier League draw with Manchester City.

In came Andy Robertson, Clark and Gakpo, with Salah making his first Reds start since January 1. Virgil van Dijk, Elliott, Alexis Mac Allister and Luis Diaz all dropped to the bench.

Liverpool: Kelleher, Bradley, Quansah (Van Dijk, 66), Gomez (Tsimikas, 46), Robertson, Endo (McConnell, 46), Szoboszlai, Clark (Musialowski, 73), Salah, Nunez (Elliott, 46), Gakpo.

Unused subs: Adrian, Mrozek, Diaz, Mac Allister, Gordon, Koumas, Danns.

First half

Liverpool started the game at a furious pace and their pressing was too much for Sparta to handle as the Reds raced into a 4-0 lead inside the opening 14 minutes.

Nunez set the ball rolling, sweeping home a confident first-time finish from Szoboszlai’s low cross in the seventh minute.

Just over 60 seconds later, it was two, as Salah won possession deep in the Sparta half, allowing Clark to slide his first senior goal under the diving Peter Vindahl.

The third goal arrived in the 10th minute, Clark returning the favour by winning the ball back, and Salah finishing calmly for his 20th goal of the season, the Egyptian thereby becoming the first player in club history to reach that landmark for a seventh successive season.

And Liverpool’s remarkable start got even better shortly after as Salah again found space on the right to send in a low cross that Gakpo converted with aplomb.

The home side did not look like easing off, either. Nunez smashed over the bar from close range after superb work from Gakpo and Salah, and Vindahl made a good stop to deny Clark after the teenager had skipped into the area onto Salah’s back-heel and unleashed a powerful angled strike.

Sparta gave their travelling fans something to cheer three minutes before half-time, as Angelo Preciado fed a nice ball in behind the hosts’ defence, allowing Veljko Birmancevic to slide home his finish in front of the Kop and make it 4-1 on the night.

Second half

Klopp was able to withdraw Nunez, Joe Gomez and Wataru Endo at half-time, with James McConnell, Kostas Tsimikas and Elliott on in their place.

It was not long before the Reds were back on the goal trail, with Salah feeding Szoboszlai, who was able to glide into the penalty area and fire inside Vindahl’s near post via a deflection just three minutes after the restart.

And five became six on 55 minutes, when Elliott fired in a low shot from 25 yards that Gakpo diverted home smartly to deceive Vindahl.

Klopp sent on captain Van Dijk for Jarell Quansah, and Liverpool might have had a seventh goal soon after, with Gakpo missing a good chance to complete his hat-trick from Elliott’s fine pass.

The Dutchman was then denied by Vindahl after another cute through ball from Elliott, while Liverpool gave a senior debut to Mateusz Musialowski, who replaced Clark.

Musialowski immediately set up a chance for Elliott, which Vindahl did well to keep out, as the Reds continued to press for goals until the final whistle at Anfield.

Attendance: 59,581



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