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Sparta Prague 1-5 Liverpool: Match ratings as Mac Allister & Nunez lead Reds to Europa League victory

Liverpool cruised to a 5-1 win over Sparta Prague in the first leg of their Europa League round of 16 tie thanks to goals from Alexis Mac Allister, Luiz Diaz, and a double from Darwin Nunez.

The Reds wasted no time stamping their authority on the game as Mac Allister won and converted a penalty in the sixth minute after Asger Sorensen brought him down.

Despite going a goal down early on, Sparta Prague continued to find their way behind Liverpool’s defence. Lukas Haraslin forced a terrific save from Caoimhin Kelleher before Joe Gomez cleared the ball off the line.

Liverpool were under pressure, and Ecuadorian wing-back Angelo Preciado forced two brilliant blocks from Ibrahima Konate to hand Sparta Prague a corner-kick. 

Kelleher made another stunning save to prevent Preciado from finding an equaliser on the volley from the corner. Liverpool made their opponents pay for not taking their chances as Nunez doubled their lead.

The Uruguayan collected a pass on the left before curling one into the back of the net, even though Peter Vindahl Jensen should have positioned himself better. It was the striker’s 15th goal of the season.

Liverpool had taken control of the game, but Sparta kept trying to force their way back into the tie, and Veljko Birmancevic somehow failed to sort his feet with the goal gaping at his mercy.

On 42, Cody Gakpo pulled off a sharp turn and snapped a shot that Vindahl Jensen quickly got down to save. The Dutchman should have scored minutes later but found the Danish keeper in his way again.

Just before the stroke of half-time, Nunez bagged his brace as he collected a pass from Mac Allister before volleying a scorcher into the back of the net. 3-0 at half-time.

Upon the restart, substitute Conor Bradley (he replaced Joe Gomez) fired the ball into the back of his net, trying to clear out for a corner to make it 3-1.

Sparta smelt blood and kept coming but could not find their shooting boots as Haraslin missed another superb chance. 

Again, Liverpool made Sparta pay for missing their opportunities as Luiz Diaz scored to restore the three-goal lead. 

Mohamed Salah came on and had a decent chance that the keeper stopped before eventually getting on the scoreboard, but it was ruled out after a VAR review.

Dominik Szoboszlai, on from the bench, added a fifth to seal the win.

The Merseysiders take a big boost heading into crunch clashes against Manchester City and Manchester United before the second leg of this match.

Liverpool player ratings 

Caoimhin Kelleher (8.5/10) – The ever-reliable Liverpool shot-stopper pulled off some remarkable saves to keep the Reds in the tie. It was another stellar goalkeeping performance to add to the catalogue.

Joe Gomez (6.5/10) – The versatile English defender slotted in at right-back and struggled with his position early on before he got going. He made a goalline clearance that prevented Sparta from netting an equaliser.

Ibrahima Konate (6.5/10) – Konate struggled as the leader of the defensive line at first but began to get comfortable. Sparta’s movement caused him several problems.

Jarell Quansah (6.5/10) – The more subdued of the defensive duo. He could not deal with the Sparta movement and counterattacks but got more comfortable when the opponents missed most of their chances. 

Andy Robertson (6.5/10) – Robertson is still building momentum following his return from a long-term injury and was not at his rampaging best. Preciado’s movement caught him out a number of times. 

Wataru Endo (6.5/10) – The former Stuttgart enforcer broke up attacks and made superb tackles but failed to calm the game down and seize control when Liverpool needed it.

Alexis Mac Allister (8.5/10) – The Argentine typically combined sublime technique and incredible work-rate in midfield, bagging a goal and assist for his buzzing performance.

Harvey Elliott (7.5/10) – Elliott picked the ball up in dangerous areas and made some nice passes, but he got crowded out in the midfield and wide areas he usually drifts into. He still recorded three assists.

Luis Diaz (7/10) – Diaz was unusually quiet in the first half and struggled to impress himself on the game but bounced back in the second half, bagging a goal.

Darwin Nunez (9.5/10) – MOTM – The former Benfica striker bagged a brilliant double to continue his rich vein of scoring form. Long may this continue!

Cody Gakpo (6/10) – Gakpo had excellent chances to get on the scoresheet but fluffed his lines multiple times. He must be disappointed not to have bagged a goal or two.


Conor Bradley (4.5/10)

Bobby Clark (6.5/10)

Dominik Szoboszlai (8/10)

Mohamed Salah (7/10)

Virgil Van Dijk (7/10)

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