Liverpool 6 – 1 (11-2 agg) Sparta Prague – The Europa League Post-mortem

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Liverpool vs. Sparta Prague: A Europa League Showcase

A Fast Start Under the Anfield Lights

This game needed the starting assets to prove their sharpness so that key individuals could be ushered from the pitch and protected for the next game. The Europa League second-leg tie was an incredible spectacle of attacking intent, and the momentum became infectious for a jubilant fanbase.

Photo: IMAGO

Below is how the team lined up, with match details following.

The Starting Eleven

GK – Caoimhin Kelleher
RB – Conor Bradley
RCB – Jarell Quansah
LCB – Joe Gomez
LB – Andy Robertson (c)
LCM – Dominik Szoboszlai
CDM – Wataru Endō
RCM – Bobby Clark
RF – Mohamed Salah
CF – Darwin Núñez
LF – Cody Gakpo

Subs
Kostas Tsimikas – Joe Gomez (45mins)
James McConnell – Wataru Endō (45mins)
Harvey Elliott – Darwin Núñez (45mins)
Virgil van Dijk – Jarell Quansah (66 mins)
Mateusz Musiałowski – Bobby Clark – (73 mins)

Goals

Liverpool 1 – 0 Sparta Prague
Darwin Núñez (Dominik Szoboszlai) 7 mins

Liverpool 2 – 0 Sparta Prague
Bobby Clark (Mohamed Salah) 8 mins

Liverpool 3 – 0 Sparta Prague
Mohamed Salah (Bobby Clark) 10 mins

Liverpool 4 – 0 Sparta Prague
Cody Gakpo (Mohamed Salah) 14 mins

Liverpool 4 – 1 Sparta Prague
Veljko Birmanevic (Angelo Previado) 42 mins

Liverpool 5 – 1 Sparta Prague
Dominik Szoboszlai (Mohamed Salah) 48 mins

Liverpool 6 – 1 Sparta Prague
Cody Gakpo (Harvey Elliott) 55 mins

https://twitter.com/footballontnt/status/1768404362789867910

Important Match Stats

Possession
Liverpool 78% – 22% Sparta Prague

Total Shots
Liverpool 20 – 9 Sparta Prague

Corner Kicks
Liverpool 8 – 2 Manchester City

Crosses
Liverpool 17 – 10 Sparta Prague

Goalkeeper Saves
Liverpool 1 – 5 Sparta Prague

The First Half

The opening period of this game was very much about Liverpool attempting to attain a cricket score under the famed Anfield lights. Within 14 minutes of frantic play, the European heavyweights had pressed and hassled the life away from their dazzled opponents as the fastest of starts invaded Merseyside. The first goal resulted from that ongoing onslaught before the Hungarian captain, Dominik Szoboszlai, cut the ball back to a prime-positioned Darwin Núñez. The Uruguayan striker caught the ball for the first time, and the strike ended up inside the near post. As the replays showed that early goal on TNT, some continued counter pressing and questionable playing out from the back (by Sparta Prague), allowed Bobby Clark to clinically strike beyond a bewildered visiting keeper. Those 7th and 8th-minute goals were joined by a 10th-minute effort, where Clark turned provider for his Egyptian teammate. Mohamed Salah was perfectly positioned to curl the ball into the corner, with his left-footed hit adding another scoring record to his all-time career.

The Game Unfolds: Goals and Highlights

Sadly, for the delighted fanbase, they would have to wait a full four minutes until the next goal arrived. Cody Gakpo had been tasked into his favoured left forward position and received a Salah assist before calmly finding the net to take the score on the night to 4-0. 14 minutes had passed, and the game looked ominous, for the Czech league leaders at least. A level of control and a slightly less intense endeavour was brought to the hosts’ game, as Bobby Clark and company controlled the ball and many periods of the remaining half. It would be on the 42nd minute that Sparta Prague would achieve their consolation goal, as a slight defensive misjudgement allowed the scorer to evade the noble efforts of the Japan captain, Wataru Endō, before dispatching a scruffy effort beyond an underworked Caoimhin Kelleher.

The half-ended minutes later, with the aggregate score at 9-2.

https://twitter.com/benbocsak/status/1768397052361240867

The Second Half

On resumption of the second half, three changes were made to rest vital assets ahead of the weekend’s FA Cup tie at Old Trafford.

It did not take long for the consolation goal from the visitors (late in the first half), to be eradicated by a jet heeled Dominik Szoboszlai. His powerful play and desire to inflict damage was evident throughout this game, therefore, it was only fitting to see his deflected effort find the net and place his name on the expanding scorers list. Cody Gakpo would gain fortune from a Harvey Elliott effort seven minutes later, as the England under-21 star saw his long-range attempt angled in by the well-situated Dutchman. The sporadic moments of brilliance were lessening as the team’s shape and structure shifted towards game management as incoming substitutes were positioned accordingly.

The Red’s German manager undertook further alterations, as football’s joyful and entertaining evening became about trying to get Cody Gakpo, which was the third goal. Ultimately, this was a fixture and subsequent performance that meant Sparta would always be on the receiving end of a beating as they met a red juggernaut intent on achieving ultimate success.

Preparing for the Next Challenge

The game ended at 6-1 on the night, with an astonishing 11-2 aggregate score seeing Liverpool enter the Europa League’s quarter-finals.

What Are My Final Thoughts…?

This was a game that required the likes of Mohamed Salah, Dominik Szoboszlai, and Andy Robertson to find full rhythm and prepare for Sunday afternoon. The starting eleven was surprisingly strong. However, who are we to judge the decisions of the world’s greatest manager in his final few months at Anfield?

Pre-game prediction;
Liverpool 4 – 2 Sparta Prague

Steven Smith

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