Match report as Liverpool reached the Europa League last-16 stage with a 4-0 win over LASK; Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo scored inside the first 15 minutes before Mohamed Salah's 199th Liverpool goal secured the result; Gakpo added a Liverpool fourth in injury-time
Friday 1 December 2023 06:09, UK
Liverpool qualified for the Europa League knockout stages as Group E winners after their front three starred in their 4-0 win over LASK at Anfield.
In making it 10 wins from 10 games at Anfield this season, the Reds scored two quick-fire goals in the opening 15 minutes as Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo both fired in from close range, before Mohamed Salah's second-half penalty - his 199th goal for Liverpool - made it 3-0 after the break.
Salah was taken off shortly after his goal, meaning he will have the chance to reach a double century of goals for the club when his side host Fulham on Sunday afternoon. There was time for Gakpo to score an injury-time fourth after a stunning pass from substitute Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Liverpool have qualified with a game to spare as Toulouse's draw with Union Saint-Gilloise means Jurgen Klopp's side have secured top spot in Group E, which puts them straight into the last-16 round instead of a February play-off for finishing in second place.
Liverpool wasted the chance to top their Europa League group when they lost at Toulouse last time out - but they wasted little time in getting this result in the bag early doors.
Gakpo should have given Liverpool the lead when Harvey Elliott flicked him through for a clear sight on goal - but he blazed over from inside the box.
But Liverpool snatched their lead a minute later when Diaz found Joe Gomez on the right and the Colombia forward continued his run into the box. The defender found him unmarked in the area and Diaz was on hand to head home.
LASK were bright in the opening exchanges and Sascha Horvath broke down the right and squared for the unmarked Moses Usor in the box - but the striker's touch let him down and Liverpool could clear.
Seconds later, it was two as Diaz slipped Salah down the right, with the Egypt international squaring for Gakpo who could not miss this time.
LASK continued their desire to attack Liverpool and Kostas Tsimikas cleared off the line from Usor's low finish - but the rest of the half belonged to the home side.
Tsimikas struck the bar with a stunning long-range effort while Salah could only fire straight at LASK goalkeeper Tobias Lawal in his best chance of the opening period.
But the Egyptian was not to be denied after the break as he was presented with a chance from the penalty spot after Lawal brought down Gakpo in the box. Salah tucked home his penalty into the corner, with Lawal motionless in the LASK goal.
With the result secured, Salah was immediately taken off by Klopp and his replacement Darwin Nunez had several chances within minutes of coming on.
The Uruguayan saw a close-range effort well-stopped by Lawal, who also made a good save to deny the excellent Elliott.
At the other end, Caoimhin Kelleher - who is set to deputise for the injured Alisson in the Premier League over the coming weeks - saved well from Usor and LASK substitute Ibrahim Mustapha in his only two moments of note.
A successful night was rounded off when Gakpo finished inside the box after Alexander-Arnold's stunning late pass.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp speaking to TNT Sports:
"The most important is top of the group and that will not change - so that's good.
"There was a lot of good stuff and then some things I don't like too much. I say it all the time, we still have to grow and we develop.
"But this game should have been put to bed before half-time. If you're in front of a game and in charge, kill it. We didn't do that. Three-nil was great and then we open up the game a little bit and give them chances. Winning four-nil is fantastic.
"It [the final Europa League group game] was an important game for Union but if they win and Toulouse lose, they can go through. So we have to go there to win. But it's good that we don't have to and after that, we have at least one [other competition, the Carbaao Cup] then another competition [the FA Cup] arrives in January. We are not short of games, so it's all fine."
It feels as if there is one place up for grabs in Liverpool's three-player midfield. New signings Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister have their spots secured - so why can't Harvey Elliott take the other?
Watching him against LASK, you wonder why the midfielder has not started more in the Premier League under Jurgen Klopp, with Elliot used just once from the off since August.
No player created more chances than Elliott against the Austrian side on Thursday night, while he ended the game with the most completed final-third passes.
The 20-year-old made Liverpool's right flank impossible to play against, adding more threat to Mohamed Salah's game while even making makeshift right-back Joe Gomez - who equalled Elliott for chances created against LASK - look dangerous.
Yes, this was only LASK - who gave Elliott the time and space to hurt their defence by playing so aggressively against Klopp's side. But the Liverpool midfielder has shown more glimpses of quality than just this Europa League game.
There have been the classy, late assists away at Luton and Wolves - while he has five goals and two assists in five England U21 qualifying games. Elliott is certainly knocking on the door.
Liverpool host Fulham in the Premier League on Sunday; kick-off 2pm. Sky Sports' digital platforms are the first place you can watch highlights of this game, which will drop shortly after full-time.
Jurgen Klopp's side complete their Europa League group stage campaign away to Union Saint-Gilloise at 5.45pm on Thursday December 14.