Liverpool might light work of LASK as Gakpo fires them into KO stages, Brighton and Villa through too

Liverpool have cruised into the Europa League knockout stages with a match to spare as a 4-0 victory over LASK confirmed their place as group winners.

Early goals from Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo were enhanced by a second-half Mohamed Salah penalty – his 199th goal for the club – and an added-time strike by Gakpo.

Gakpo nabbed a double right before the full-time whistle!

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Toulouse’s draw with Union Saint-Gilloise means a dreaded round-of-32 play-off was avoided for Juergen Klopp’s men.

That mere fact alone would have delighted Klopp, whose pre-match press conference had been littered with references to the intense December period ahead.

But a club-record 12 points in the group stage shows how dominant the tournament favourites have been.

The Reds’ 100 per cent home record was extended to 10 games and a third successive Anfield clean sheet for the first time since October 2022 meant they conceded only four times in front of their own fans while scoring 30.

Luis Diaz opens the scoring for Liverpool with a lovely header! ????

↳ UEFA Europa League. Liverpool v LASK, live now. Every Match. Exclusive & Ad-free. Live & On Demand, on Stan Sport.#StanSportAU #UEL #LIVLAS

— Stan Sport Football (@StanSportFC) November 30, 2023

Brighton and West Ham also booked their places in the knockout stages with wins over AEK Athens and Backa Topola respectively.

European new boys Brighton will continue their adventure into next year after Joao Pedro’s 55th minute penalty earned a 1-0 win over  Athens in Greece, despite Albion being second best for much of Thursday night. 

Pedro stepped up after VAR judged he was fouled by Damian Szymanski, and Athens were reduced to 10 men in the 65th minute when Mijat Gacinovic earned a second yellow card. 

The Hammers are also through after the in-form Tomas Soucek struck yet another late goal, getting an 89th minute winner to beat Backa Topola 1-0. 

West Ham will go head-to-head with Freiburg in two weeks to decide who tops Group A after the Germans thrashed Olympiacos 5-0 as Michael Gregoritsch scored a first-half hat-trick. 

Sparta Prague kept the pressure on Rangers, who drew 1-1 with Aris Limassol, in Group C with a 1-0 win over group leaders Real Betis, courtesy of Lukas Haraslin’s curling strike in the 54th minute. 

Atalanta were confirmed as Group D winners with a 1-1 draw against second-placed Sporting, who levelled through Marcus Edwards early in the second half after Gianluca Scamacca had put Atalanta ahead. 

Rennes are also through to the knockout stages after a 3-0 away win over Maccabi Haifa in Budapest, with Martin Terrier, Amine Gouri and Fabian Rieder getting the goals.

Marseille were 4-3 winners over Ajax, while Servette and Roma drew 1-1.

Freiburg thumped Olympiacos 5-0, Leverkusen qualified for the knockout stage with a 2-0 win over Hacken 2-0 while Villarreal beat Panathinakos 3-2. 

In the Conference League, Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan kept a cleansheet for AZ Alkmaar in a 1-0 home win over Zrinjski. 

Aston Villa won 2-1 at home to Legia Warsaw to top the group, with Alkmaar sitting third. 

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