Buidling Dreams Together


Sparta Prague 1-5 Liverpool – Nunez scores two stunners as Reds all but through to Europa League Quarters

Mac Allister, Diaz and Szoboszlai also on scoresheet as Klopp’s men run riot in Prague

Darwin Nunez scored two brilliant first-half goals as Liverpool all but confirmed their place in the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Finals with an emphatic first-leg 5-1 victory over Sparta Prague.

The Reds were on their way after just six minutes as Alexis Mac Allister struck home from the penalty spot, before Nunez took over with two sublime efforts to put Jurgen Klopp’s side in cruise control.

Conor Bradley put through his own net to give Sparta hope, but any hope of a comeback was quashed when Luis Diaz put away Liverpool’s fourth, before Dominik Szoboszlai rounded off the scoring.

Klopp surprised many with his team selection as he picked a relatively strong XI, with many expecting the likes of Nunez, Mac Allister and Ibrahima Konate to be rested ahead of Sunday’s clash with Manchester City.

Liverpool came flying out of the traps and had an early opportunity as Mac Allister pounced on a heavy touch by Asger Sorensen before being brought down by a rash challenge by the Dane.

Mac Allister picked himself up and placed his penalty into the bottom left-hand corner to give the Reds an early nerve settler.

The Czech outfit, however, came back into the tie and should have levelled as Jan Kuchta found Lukas Haraslin, whose effort was brilliantly saved by Caoimhin Kelleher, before Joe Gomez cleared the ball off the line to preserve Liverpool’s lead.

Kelleher came to the rescue again moments later, tipping over Martin Vitik’s flick-on, and the hosts would be made to rue those missed chances.

Harvey Elliott picked up the ball midway inside the Sparta half before finding Nunez down the left, and the Uruguayan cut inside before curling a sensational effort over Peter Vindahl to double to Reds’ advantage, scoring Liverpool’s 1,000th goal under Jurgen Klopp in the process.

Brian Priske’s side kept creating chances and somehow didn’t pull a goal back eight minutes before half-time when Veljko Birmancevic missed an open net after Kuchta’s effort was parried his way by Kelleher.

Sparta would rue that moment as Mac Allister pinged a long ball across to Nunez, who let the ball bounce over his shoulder before volleying past Vindahl to leave Klopp’s men in dreamland at the break.

The hosts deservedly pulled a goal back early in the second half in calamitous circumstances, as Bradley smashes the ball into the corner of his own net while trying to clear a Birmancevic cross.

To make things worse for Liverpool, Konate went down injured shortly afterwards and was replaced by captain Virgil Van Dijk, although Klopp has confirmed post-match that the Frenchman was taken off as a precaution.

But any hope of a comeback was quickly ended by the Premier League leaders, as Bradley found space on the byline to find Elliott, who, in turn, found Diaz to toe-poke home via a deflection off of Vitik to wrong-foot Vindahl.

The fourth goal seemed to have calmed the tempo of the game down, as Liverpool began to regain control of the game, giving Klopp the opportunity to give Mohamed Salah his long-awaited return from injury for the final 20 minutes of the game.

Salah thought he had his 20th goal of the season when he slotted home from just inside the area, but VAR ruled the goal out for a very narrow offside.

The Reds would not be denied their fifth goal, however, as Szoboszlai broke away in the final minute of stoppage time before slotting under Vindahl to give Liverpool a four-goal advantage heading into the second-leg at Anfield next Thursday.

Player of the Match – Darwin Nunez

Despite only playing fifty minutes of the contest before being taken off by Klopp in preparation for the clash with City, that was all that Nunez needed to inflict his damage on Fortuna:Liga leaders.

The Uruguayan caused the Sparta defenders all sort of problems throughout the first half and produced two goals of the highest order, effectively ending the tie by half-time.

Tonight’s brace brought Nunez’s total for the season to 16 goals in all competitions to go alongside his 11 assists, surpassing his goal tally from the whole of last season with a third of the season still to play.

A devastating striker’s performance.


Sparta Prague 1 – Bradley (OG) (46’)

Liverpool 5 – Mac Allister (6’ Pen), Nunez (25′, 45+3′), Diaz (53’), Szoboszlai (90+4′)

Featured Image Credit: Craig Mercer/Alamy