Sparta Prague 1-5 Liverpool: Darwin Nunez nets superb brace as Reds cruise towards Europa League last-eight

Darwin Nunez scored a first-half double (AP)
Darwin Nunez scored a first-half double (AP)

Liverpool effectively booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Europa League with a 5-1 first-leg hammering of Sparta Prague.

The job was near enough done by half-time in Prague, as Alexis Mac Allister opened the scoring inside six minutes from the penalty spot, and Darwin Nunez then fired in a superb brace before the break.

Sparta did have chances of their own in the first-half, opportunities they could not take, but they had a goal back within a minute of the restart, as Conor Bradley, on at the break, turned the ball into his own net with his first touch.

Ibrahima Konate was then forced off with injury, as Liverpool’s night threatened to really derail, but Luis Diaz’s deflected strike got things back on track and restored the three-goal advantage.

Mohamed Salah made his return from injury off the bench with 15 minutes remaining, and thought he had a goal to mark the occasion, after he was played in by Dominik Szoboszlai. However, despite replays suggesting he was onside, VAR chalked it off after a review.

Liverpool did get their fifth though, with the final kick of the match. Szoboszlai was allowed to drift into the box, and his strike was good enough to beat Peter Vindahl, who endured a miserable night in goal for Sparta.

Injury concerns aside, it was a near enough perfect night for Liverpool, ahead of a crucial Premier League title clash with Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp can be expected to make plenty of changes for next week’s second leg against Sparta on home soil, which comes three days before Liverpool face Manchester United in an FA Cup quarter-final.