Liverpool 6-1 (11-2 agg) Sparta Praha: Reds race to stunning round-of-sixteen victory at Anfield

With their UEFA Europa League quarterfinal spot all but confirmed after a hefty victory in the first leg, Liverpool welcomed Sparta Praha to Anfield on Thursday. Jürgen Klopp’s starting eleven was not massively altered though, despite their aggregate advantage and Sunday’s upcoming FA Cup quarterfinal clash against Manchester United.

LIV: Kelleher; Robertson, Gomez, Quansah, Bradley; Clark, Endo, Szoboszlai; Gakpo, Núñez, Salah

SPA: Vindahl; Runes, Krejci, Zeleny, Vitik, Preciado; Laci, Kairinen, Solbakken; Kuchta, Birmancevic

It took merely seven minutes for the Reds to build upon the first-leg advantage they earned in Czechia, with Darwin Núñez opening the scoring as he slotted home from a well-placed Dominik Szoboszlai cutback.

On his first start in Europe, youngster Bobby Clark added the second goal less than two minutes later as he caressed the ball past Peter Vindahl, after the visitors had conceded possession on the edge of their own penalty area.

Sparta Praha seemingly did not learn from that mistake though, with an almost identical mishap allowing Mohamed Salah to pick out the back of the net for Liverpool’s third goal – and with just ten minutes elapsed at Anfield, it looked to be a painfully long evening for the visitors.

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Salah’s involvement did not end there, with the Egyptian’s near-post cross teeing up Cody Gakpo for Liverpool’s fourth goal before the quarter-hour mark.

Trailing 9-0 on aggregate by this point, Sparta Praha did manage to reduce the deficit before the break – albeit the goal came as a mere consolation, with Veljko Birmancevic outpacing Wataru Endo to at least give the travelling fans something to celebrate on an otherwise disappointing evening.

Jürgen Klopp made changes at the break with Sunday’s FA Cup clash in mind, but they had no dampening effect on Liverpool’s goalscoring ability. Szoboszlai saw his deflected strike creep past Vindahl just after play resumed, with Gakpo wrapping up proceedings in the 55th minute as he bundled home from Harvey Elliott’s curling strike.

Liverpool’s progression to the quarterfinals was never in doubt, and Jürgen Klopp’s men now sit just three wins away from another European trophy that would be the perfect end to the German’s stewardship on Merseyside.