Liverpool 6-1 Sparta Prague (11-2 agg): Player ratings

Liverpool cruised through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League on Thursday night as a 6-1 win over Sparta Prague at Anfield helped to seal an 11-2 aggregate win.

Jurgen Klopp’s team's blistering start at Anfield got under way in the seventh minute when Darwin Nunez swept home Dominik Szoboszlai’s low cutback.

Youngster Bobby Clark made it two while replays of Darwin’s opener were still being shown. The midfielder, making just his fourth start, pounced on the ball on the edge of the box after Mohamed Salah robbed back possession, then slotted the ball past the keeper.

Two minutes later, it was the other way around: Clark won back possession with the high press before feeding Salah, who sent the keeper the wrong way with one of his characteristic finishes.

The side then made it four after just 14 minutes thanks to Cody Gakpo's finish. The Dutchman’s excellent movement helped him to beat his man to the ball and slot home Salah’s cutback.

Though Veljko Birmancevic got a goal back for the visitors just before half time, the goals continued to come for Liverpool.

Dominik Szoboszlai made it five just after half-time via a deflection and this was followed by Cody Gakpo’s second of the game when he flicked Harvey Elliott’s low shot past the keeper.

Here are your player ratings...

Caoimhin Kelleher (GK): 7

A lowkey evening for the Irishman, who had precious little to do and could do nothing to prevent what was quite a bizarre goal.

Conor Bradley (RB): 7

A solid and unspectacular showing from the right-back, who drifted much more into the middle of the park in the second half.

Jarell Quansah (CB): 7

Hardly put a foot wrong in his 65 minutes on the pitch, except perhaps his final involvement when quite a rash tackle earned him (and Jurgen Klopp) a yellow card.

Joe Gomez (CB): 8

A rare outing at centre-back for the recently recalled England defender and he did his best Virgil van Dijk impersonation with a number of raking long diagonal passes. Solid at the back, too, before he was withdrawn at half time.

Andrew Robertson (LB): 8

Wearing the captain’s armband, the Scotsman had precious little to do from a defensive perspective until he was asked to fill in at centre-back after the break. Despite the unfamiliar position, he looked like he had played there his whole life, snuffing out all the danger that came down his side.

Wataru Endo (DM): 7

Bizarrely found himself as the last man when Veljko Birmancevic went through on goal and squeezed his shot through the Japan captain’s best efforts at a block just before half time. Otherwise, a typical Endo performance, breaking up play and keeping possession ticking over in tight areas. Also rested at half time.

Dominik Szoboszlai (CM): 8

Looked sharp once again as he builds his fitness back up following injury. Tried some intricate buildup play which didn’t quite come off in the first half, but was rewarded for his endeavour shortly after the restart when his shot deflected in at the near post after a powerful run.

Bobby Clark (CM): 9

Was nicely on his toes to pounce on Salah’s high press and tuck the ball through the keeper’s legs to earn his first senior goal after just eight minutes. Returned the favour for Salah just moments later, too. Drew an excellent save from the keeper after 36 minutes after poking the ball through the legs of the defender. A goal and an assist on just his fourth start: he looked very much at home in the Reds’ midfield.

Mohamed Salah, Liverpool vs Sparta Prague

Liverpool FC v AC Sparta Prague Mohamed Salah of Liverpool and Bobby Clark of Liverpool prepare for kick off during the Liverpool FC v AC Sparta Prague Last 16, 2nd Leg UEFA Europa League match at Anfield, Liverpool, England, United Kingdom on 14 March 2024 Editorial use only. All images are copyright Every Second Media Limited. No images may be reproduced without prior permission. Copyright: xIMAGO/EveryxSecondxMediax ESM-0951-0025

Mohamed Salah (RW): 9

What an impact. Three assists and a goal on his first start following his injury return. Started with lightning intensity and gave us all a reminder about just what he can do with some lovely touches and some really incisive passing, too.

Darwin Nunez (ST): 8

Peeled away nicely to find himself in acres of space to sweep home Szoboszlai’s nice cutback within the opening six minutes. Had a more typical “Darwin moment” after 35 minutes when he skyed the easiest chance of the evening. Excellent intensity, overall, before he was withdrawn at half time.

Cody Gakpo (LW): 8

Showed brilliant movement to dash towards the penalty spot and tap home Salah’s cutback in the 14th minute. Great awareness, too, to get a flick on Elliott’s low shot to bag the Reds’ sixth goal. Ought to have had a hat-trick but scooped his left-footed effort over the bar.

Substitutes

Kostas Tsimikas (Gomez, 46’): 7

Lively second half, but as the Reds’ intensity dropped, so did his endeavour.

Harvey Elliott (Nunez, 46’): 7

A tad unfortunate not to get himself on the scoresheet when Gakpo flicked home his low shot. However, replays show that his effort may have been going wide.

James McConnell (Endo, 46’): 7

Very neat and tidy on the ball in a lowkey second half.

Virgil van Dijk (Quansah, 65’): 7

As if it wasn’t already weird seeing Robertson at centre-back, it was particularly jarring seeing the captain fill in as the right-sided centre-half following his introduction midway through the second half.

Mateusz Musialowski (Clark, 73’): 6

Showed good energy on an unexpected appearance for the 20-year-old Pole but the end product was sadly lacking.

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