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Five-Star Liverpool Stroll Past Sparta, Roma Thrash Brighton

Liverpool remain on course to send Jurgen Klopp off with a quadruple of trophies as the Reds were not distracted by Sunday's mammoth Premier League showdown against Manchester City.


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Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker #09 Darwin Nunez (L) celebrates scoring his team’s third goal with team mates during the UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg football match between AC Sparta Praha and Liverpool FC in Prague on March 7, 2024. (Photo by Michal Cizek / AFP)

 

Liverpool surged towards the Europa League quarter-finals with a 5-1 win away to Sparta Prague on Thursday, as Roma thrashed Brighton 4-0 in the Italian capital.

Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen had to come from 2-0 down to preserve their unbeaten season in a 2-2 draw against Qarabag in Azerbaijan.

Liverpool remain on course to send Jurgen Klopp off with a quadruple of trophies as the Reds were not distracted by Sunday’s mammoth Premier League showdown against Manchester City.

Klopp named a strong side and got what he wanted by killing off the tie in the first leg, even if there was a price to pay in further injury problems as defenders Joe Gomez and Ibrahima Konate had to be replaced.

Alexis Mac Allister got the visitors off to the perfect start in the Czech capital as he won and converted a penalty after just seven minutes.

Sparta had dumped out Galatasaray in the previous round and created plenty of chances against a makeshift Liverpool defence.

But the difference in quality between the sides showed in the final third.

Nunez’s dipping shot from long range outfoxed Peter Jensen to make it 2-0, before the Uruguayan smashed home Mac Allister’s through ball in first-half stoppage time.

Conor Bradley replaced Gomez at half-time and his first act was to fire into the top corner of his own goal one minute into the second half.

But Luis Diaz’s deflected effort quickly restored Liverpool’s three-goal cushion.

Mac Allister and Nunez were withdrawn in the second period with one eye on City’s visit and there was some good news on the injury front for Klopp as Mohamed Salah made his comeback from a hamstring injury as a substitute.

Salah thought he had marked his return with a goal, but a VAR review disallowed his strike for offside.

Instead, it was another substitute Dominik Szoboszlai who fired in the fifth in stoppage time.

READ ALSO: Leverkusen Snatch Late Draw To Keep Unbeaten Run Alive

Ruthless Roma 

Brighton’s first foray into European football looks over at the last-16 stage after the Seagulls were thrashed by in-form Roma.

The Italian giants have only lost once in 10 games since legendary former player Daniele De Rossi replaced the sacked Jose Mourinho in January.

Paulo Dybala was perfectly picked out by Leandro Paredes to open the scoring before Romelu Lukaku pounced on an error by Brighton captain Lewis Dunk to double Roma’s lead before the break.

Gianluca Mancini stretched to meet Stephan El Shaarawy’s cross 25 minutes from time.

El Shaarawy was also the creator for a brilliant team goal finished off by Bryan Cristante to round off a miserable trip for the visitors.

Two Brighton fans were stabbed in a robbery the night before the game.

Leverkusen are well on course to win their first-ever Bundesliga title but have work to do to reach the Europa League quarter-finals.

Yassine Benzia blasted into the roof of the net to give Qarabag the lead.

A brilliant piece of skill from Juninho to round goalkeeper Matej Kovar and slot home then had the Azeri fans in dreamland just before the break.

Alonso had rested a number of his key players and the Germans improved with a series of changes after the break.

Florian Wirtz was one of those introduced from the bench and his cool chipped finish 20 minutes from time gave the Bundesliga leaders a foothold in the tie.

Patrik Schick then headed home in stoppage time to preserve Leverkusen’s unbeaten record in 35 games in all competitions this season.

Seven-time European champions AC Milan are in action later as they host Slavia Prague.

Rangers travel to Benfica, while Europa Conference League holders West Ham visit Freiburg.

AFP