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UEFA Europa League Matchday 5: Liverpool 4-0 LASK

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LASK’s faint hopes of UEFA Europa League qualification came to an end as Liverpool ran out comfortable winners at a sold-out Anfield. A lightning start from the Premier League side saw Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo put the Reds into the lead in the opening quarter hour, a Mohamed Salah penalty added a third and finally Gakpo the final goal in injury time. Despite this, LASK had equipped themselves well and grew into the game with multiple chances in the latter stages, but ultimately couldn’t break down the former European champions.

After returning to winning ways in the Austrian Bundesliga on Saturday versus WSG Tirol, LASK headed to one of football’s great amphitheatres - Anfield - to visit English giants Liverpool with their UEFA Europa League future hanging in the balance. A swashbuckling 3-0 victory over Union Saint-Gilloise on Matchday 4 kept LASK’s hopes of qualifying alive, with the Reds topping the group despite a defeat to Toulouse last time out.

Jurgen Klopp’s side, who beat LASK 3-1 at the Raiffeisen Arena on the opening matchday, currently sit third in the Premier League after a top-of-the-table clash against Manchester City and were looking to cement their passage to the knockout stages. It was only LASK’s third ever trip to England, all of which have come in the past four seasons with trips to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur adding to LASK’s growing legacy in European competition.

Backed by a sold-out and noisy 2,350 fans in the Anfield Road End, the Black & Whites started well with Robert Žulj and Sascha Horvath combining but ultimately seeing the ball fail to reach Horvath. This was quickly followed by Marin Ljubicic’s shot being blocked after good work from Moses Usor.

Despite LASK’s positive start it was the English side who put their name on the scoresheet first as Diaz brilliantly directed his diving header past Tobias Lawal from Joe Gomez’s pinpoint cross. Despite this setback, LASK immediately countered with verve as Horvath found Usor unmarked on the edge of the penalty area but the Nigerian forward couldn’t control the ball at the crucial moment.

The next chance for Liverpool, the next goal; Salah slalomed down the right side and delivered a cross, via a deflection, in the six-yard box to find Gakpo at the back post who tapped in for the second. Once again, LASK found joy in behind Liverpool’s defence but Usor’s final ball lacked precision and couldn’t find a Black and White player in the centre.

The class of the Merseyside outfit was on display as Konstantinos Tsimikas clattered the crossbar with a brilliant shot from outside of the area on the half hour mark. Shortly after, Harvey Elliott saw his free-kick tipped wide by Lawal and heading into the break Salah and Gomez both saw chances go amiss.

The Reds started the second half as they ended the first with Salah, Gakpo and Japan captain Wataru Endo all peppering Lawal’s goal with shots but unfortunately the status quo didn’t remain for long as in the 50th minute Lawal brought down Gakpo in the area and from the resulting spotkick Salah confidently lashed it into the bottom corner.

Four minutes later the impressive Gakpo picked the ball up in midfield, pushed off a couple LASK players and hit the woodwork from distance. LASK responded immediately with their best chance of the game as Marin Ljubicic received the ball from George Bello after a good move and fired over the bar.

Despite the three-goal advantage Liverpool wanted more by bringing on €75m striker Darwin Nunez, UEFA Under-21 EURO champion Curtis Jones and England international Trent Alexander-Arnold and immediately went up a gear as Lawal was forced into top saves from Harvey Elliott and Nunez as the LASK goalkeeper impressed once again.

Thomas Sageder responded with a quadruple substitution as the visitors improved their standing in the game via two subs, Ibrahim Mustapha and Rene Renner, combining and forcing a very good save from Liverpool keeper Caoimhin Kelleher. Unfortunately for Mustapha, his night was short-lived as he was forced off after only 13 minutes with an injury.

Despite the deficit, LASK looked confident and were almost rewarded in the 78th minute as Kelleher denied Usor’s powerful shot. The final action of the game came in injury time as Gakpo finished a quick Liverpool move and fired into the top corner for the fourth goal.

The defeat means that LASK’s only hope of post-Christmas European football is by finishing third in Group E to move into the UEFA Europa Conference League, which can be achieved by beating Toulouse on the final matchday and hoping for a favour from Liverpool in their clash against Union Saint-Gilloise.

By Simon Clark from The Other Bundesliga (OtherBundesliga)

The line-ups

Liverpool: Kelleher; Quansah, Gomez, Konate (Alexander-Arnold 56’), Tsimikas (Chambers 82’); Gravenberch (Bradley 82’), Endo, Elliott; Salah (Jones 56’), Gakpo, Diaz (Nunez 56’)

Subs: Pitaluga; Van Dijk, Szoboszlai, Mac Allister, Matip, Gordon, Doak

Goals: Diaz 12’, Gakpo 15’, 90+2’, Salah 51’ (pen)

LASK: Lawal; Talovierov (Havel 60’), Andrade, Ziereis; Bello (Renner 60’), Ljubic, Horvath, Stojković (Flecker 60’); Usor, Žulj, Ljubicic (Mustapha 60’, Kone 73’)

Subs: Siebenhandl; Balic, Jovicic, Ba, Goiginger, Luckeneder, Darboe