Lacklustre Liverpool were stunned 3-0 by Atalanta in a Europa League quarter-final collapse that could prove to be Jurgen Klopp’s last European night at Anfield.

This competition offers the chance to bring the curtain down on his German’s reign with a European trophy on May 22, but their hopes of making the Dublin showpiece are in jeopardy.

Liverpool lacked creativity and coherence in the first leg of a quarter-final that Atalanta are in complete control of heading back to Bergamo thanks to Gianluca Scamacca’s brace and a late Mario Pasalic goal.

It represented the Reds’ first Anfield loss since falling to Real Madrid last February and compounded the Premier League hopefuls’ potentially costly 2-2 draw at bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday.

Harvey Elliott had hit the woodwork before Scamacca’s first-half shot squirmed past Caoimhin Kelleher, who was beaten again by the former West Ham striker after Liverpool had started the second half brightly.

Livid Klopp bellowed and waved his arms as he called on fans to lift the flat Anfield atmosphere, but this was Atalanta’s night and Pasalic wrapped up an unforgettable triumph for the visitors.

The warning signs had been there for Liverpool from the start.

Elliott appeared to be fouled but Atalanta were allowed to continue forward in the third minute, with the ball eventually falling for Pasalic to take a shot from six yards that Kelleher saved with his face.

Liverpool reacted with Darwin Nunez bursting through to test Juan Musso before Alexis Mac Allister lashed over as an open start continued.

Atalanta looked up for the fight, producing some lovely free-flowing moves, but the Reds were finding gaps, with Nunez scooping wide poorly when slipped through.

A lull in play was followed by a stunning Elliott effort from wide on the right of the box, with his curling strike clipping the underside of the bar and hitting the far post.

A similar, albeit more wayward, attempt by Curtis Jones followed before Atalanta silenced Anfield in the 38th minute.

Davide Zappacosta, the marauding former Chelsea defender, sent in a low cross for Scamacca to hit a first-time shot that squirmed past Kelleher in front of the flagless Kop.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s men kept up the pressure before half-time and should have grabbed a second in stoppage time.

Marten de Roon won possession at the halfway line, leading to unmarshalled Teun Koopmeiners being sent through to be blocked by onrushing Kelleher.

There were some groans at the break, from which Liverpool returned with Mohamed Salah, Andrew Robertson and Dominik Szoboszlai.

The introductions brought an initial improvement and, after Virgil van Dijk headed over from a corner, Salah was blocked by De Roon before then being stopped by Musso.

Nunez lifted over and saw an unorthodox header caught as Liverpool continued to knock at the door, only to be hit by Atalanta again in the 61st minute.

An all too simple pass down the right to Charles De Ketelaere caught Liverpool napping, with Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez leaving Scamacca free in the middle to score with a measured first-time finish.

Atalanta were nearly celebrating a third just four minutes later but Koopmeiners could only strike across the face of goal.

Liverpool looked lost as they tried to pull one back, with their celebrations at reducing the deficit in the 79th minute shortlived as Salah strayed offside from Robertson’s pass.

Just four minutes later the mood darkened further as Szoboszlai’s mistake allowed Atalanta to break, with Scamacca slipping in Ederson to see a shot saved and Pasalic follow up in front of the away fans, leaving Liverpool a mountain to climb.

Florian Wirtz should follow Xabi Alonso's lead and reject interest from Europe's top clubs to stay at Bayer Leverkusen beyond this season, says former Germany international Carsten Ramelow.

Wirtz has been one of the standout performers in a remarkable campaign for Leverkusen, who are just one win away from clinching their first Bundesliga title.

The attacking midfielder has 18 goal involvements in 28 league outings this term (eight goals, 10 assists), with his latest goal coming from the penalty spot in Saturday's win over Union Berlin.  

Among all Bundesliga players, Wirtz ranks third for successful dribbles (77), fifth for chances created (70) and fourth for expected assists (9.23 xA) this season.

His performances have won him plenty of admirers, with Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Real Madrid among those credited with an interest in the 20-year-old.

However, after seeing head coach Alonso reaffirm his commitment to Leverkusen, Ramelow, who made over 400 appearances for Die Werkself between 1995 and 2008, thinks Wirtz should follow suit. 

"For Leverkusen, he is indispensable," the 2002 World Cup finalist told Stats Perform. "The same goes for the national team, where he has found a good role. 

"There's a lot of speculation. When you're in great form, the big teams come knocking. Leverkusen hope he will continue with them for a while and move on after that. 

"In my opinion, it would be good for his development to stay in Leverkusen, because you can see if young players leave too early, it is not always good."

With Alonso refusing to jump ship, Ramelow feels Leverkusen still have plenty to offer Wirtz, saying: "To show consistent performances, you have to be where you feel happy, and I think Leverkusen is a good place currently. 

"They are so consistent. They have a lot of confidence and also a pinch of luck in the final moments to win games. That's really good. You have to look at the collective, the coach and his staff.

"But of course, Wirtz is a very young player who showed his talent many times over the last few years. He has made really good development and has lots more to come.

"Why not continue on that path for another one, two, maybe even three years and make the next step afterwards? This is what I think is the right way, but we will see what decision Wirtz takes."

Remarkably, Leverkusen are yet to lose a game in any competition this season. They have just six further games to navigate in the Bundesliga, while they will face second tier Kaiserslautern in May's DFB-Pokal final and are among the favourites to win the Europa League.

 As Leverkusen look to banish the ghosts of 2001-02 – when they finished as runners up in the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League – Ramelow says all the credit lies with Alonso.

"When he arrived in Leverkusen, he was facing a few problems, which is normal. I think you have to give managers some time in this day and age," Ramelow said.

"That is what they did with him. He explained his philosophy and ideas very well to the team. The boys execute that really well. 

"The whole package is in perfect harmony. The season they have played is phenomenal. Their streak is sensational and it looks like they will do this until the end. 

"Every team has a bit of a lapse every season, but Leverkusen have been exceptional across all competitions. They can still win everything. Things are looking really good."

Xabi Alonso insists Bayer Levekusen’s focus is solely on West Ham on Thursday night despite a potentially historic weekend on the horizon.

Leverkusen, unbeaten in all 41 of their matches this season, look set to wrap up a first Bundesliga title on Saturday or Sunday.

All they need to do is match Bayern Munich’s result to be confirmed as champions.

Should Bayern lose to Cologne then Leverkusen will be crowned as title winners without having to kick a ball.

Either way, Alonso’s side will claim the title if they beat Werder Bremen at home on Sunday afternoon.

But Leverkusen are still in the hunt for a treble – they are already in the German Cup final – and first up is the Europa League quarter-final first leg against the Hammers.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Alonso said: “We know what West Ham can do. They have experience in Europe, last season they were champions of the Conference League.

“We want to go further and starting tomorrow and then next week in London, we have to play to our own game. We are ready.”

Former Liverpool midfielder Alonso was reportedly among the contenders to replace Jurgen Klopp as Anfield boss.

But the 42-year-old Spaniard has opted to stay at the BayArena, a decision which has thrilled the players according to defender Jeremie Frimpong.

“Everyone has a good feeling,” he said. “We love the coach and we are happy, you see it on the pitch. We simply have this great connection.”

Leverkusen reached the semi-finals of the same competition last season, but were edged out 1-0 on aggregate by Roma.

“When we lost last season in the Europa League semi-final it was difficult, but this season is different, we don’t like losing,” added Frimpong.

“It’s the quarter-finals so we are obviously excited for tomorrow. It’s what football is about, playing against the top teams so we are looking forward to it.”

West Ham have a major doubt over top scorer Jarrod Bowen for the match in Germany, but Leverkusen have also been dealt an injury blow in attack.

They will have to manage without striker Adam Hlozek, who injured his left ankle in the first half of Saturday’s 1-0 win away to Union Berlin.

AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli believes now is the time for his players to show their strengths heading into the defining period of the campaign, starting with an all-Italian Europa League quarter-final against Roma.

The Rossoneri are on a run of seven straight wins in all competitions and sit second in Serie A, six points clear of Juventus.

However, with hopes of the Scudetto all but over given the healthy lead of rivals Inter at the top of the table, Pioli knows all of that hard work will count for nothing if his squad do not last the distance in Europe.

“We are in a good moment, but now comes the most important moment of the season which will decide the balance of our season, what we have done, our positive or negative path,” Pioli told a press conference.

“This is the moment which we must demonstrate our strength, demonstrate that the journey we have had through ups and downs has improved us. It depends on us.”

Pioli added: “We have to play the whole match with attention, quality, intensity and maximum minute by minute.

“We want to win, we will try. For me we are not that far from the level of the best in Europe – we play modern football and we are competitive”

Milan will be without defender Fikayo Tomori through suspension, but Simon Kjaer and Malick Thiaw have returned to training with the rest of the squad.

Roma head to San Siro on the back of a derby win over city rivals Lazio, which left them fifth in the table and three points behind Bologna in the battle for Champions League qualification.

Milan have beaten Roma in both of their Serie A fixtures this season.

The 3-1 defeat at San Siro in January saw Roma part ways with manager Jose Mourinho and install former player Daniele De Rossi until the end of the season.

Pioli is expecting a stern test from the Giallorossi, who knocked out English side Brighton to reach the last eight.

“I think De Rossi is doing an excellent job,” the Milan boss said.

“It wasn’t easy to overcome a team that defended with many players when Mourinho was there, probably tomorrow we will find a different opponent with different characteristics.

“We know what Roma are about and their important players, but we don’t know what we will face tomorrow.

“However, we are prepared and mature enough to be able to read what they concede to us and then also make the most of our own skillsets.”

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has not ruled out Diogo Jota, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alisson Becker being involved in Liverpool’s Europa League quarter-final against Atalanta on Thursday.

All three have been sidelined by injury since February but have returned to training and look set to contribute to Liverpool’s push for silverware over the closing weeks of the season.

Teenage midfielder Stefan Bajcetic, who has been out since September, is also back in training but is likely to have to wait a little longer for a first-team return.

“Obviously we didn’t rush it with the boys,” said Klopp. “That means they did a lot of training by themselves. Diogo and Trent worked as a group since two, three weeks and could do really proper training. It was very good yesterday.

“Stefan is different a little bit because he was out for much longer but is now training with us for longer as well. I think after the long spell he had without playing football it makes sense that we might give him a game in the under-21s and then let’s see how he deals with that.

“That’s not the plan with the other three guys. They are now back in training and now we have to see how we involve them, how we use them. That we need them is clear, but we need them in the best possible shape and we want to give them a kind of rhythm.

“It’s always a challenge to reintegrate the guys but, with the quality they have, obviously it should be a bit easier and we will use them in the next days and weeks. What it means for tomorrow, I didn’t make a decision yet.”

Liverpool’s injury problems have led to increased opportunities for their young players, many of whom have advanced their causes for further inclusion.

Klopp welcomed the availability of a bigger squad at a very busy time of the season, but he could be getting a knock on the door from 21-year-old midfielder Harvey Elliott if he does not get chances in the starting line-up.

“I want to be the player walking out, rather than coming on,” said Elliott. “That doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for coming on the pitch, I’m very grateful for every opportunity that I get in a Liverpool shirt, but for me it’s about kicking on for myself and cementing my spot in the team.

“I’m not a kid any more, I’m a man, I’m growing up quickly, I feel like I need to take responsibilities into my own hands. If that means knocking on the gaffer’s door, it’s going to have to happen. But, at the same time, I do need to wait for my opportunities, I do need to be patient.”

Atalanta sit sixth in the Serie A table and put out Sporting Lisbon in the previous round but have won only two of their last nine matches.

Pep Guardiola described playing the Bergamo-based side as like going to the dentist in 2019, and long-serving manager Gian Piero Gasperini remains in charge.

“There are now only great teams left in the competition,” said Klopp. “It’s really outstanding and we know what Atalanta are all about.

“Gasperini is doing an incredible job there for years and years and it’s difficult to play against Italian teams, always was. Tactically they’re super disciplined and super dangerous in a lot of areas, so we have to be at our best to get into the next round over these two legs.”

There will be no flags on the Kop on Thursday night as fans stage a protest against ticket price increases next season.

Klopp admitted to mixed feelings on the issue, saying: “I understand the concerns and the discussion definitely. It’s a tricky one from my point of view obviously to say.

“We want to have the people in the stadium, we want to make it available for everybody. There’s a lot of good things the club is doing, but I understand 100 per cent where the supporters are coming from and I’m pretty sure they will find a solution.

“What we should make sure is that nothing gets between us and the supporters.”

Fans have criticised UEFA’s decision to allocate a “paltry” 50 per cent of tickets for the Europa League final in Dublin to supporters of the two teams involved.

The match in the Irish capital could yet be an all-English affair, with quarter-finalists Liverpool and West Ham on opposite sides of the draw.

Fans’ group Football Supporters Europe welcomed the fact that the 58 per cent allocation to the Champions League finalists at Wembley this summer was the highest in a decade, but called for a rethink for the continent’s second-tier competition finale on May 22.

“Football Supporters Europe (FSE) today shares its serious concern that the finalists’ allocations at the 2024 Europa League Final in Dublin will reach just 50% of the stadium’s total capacity on the day,” a statement from the group read.

“Further, FSE calls on UEFA and the local organisers to do right by the supporters and increase these allocations.

“A paltry 50 per cent of capacity for Europa League finalist clubs is, simply, not good enough and falls well short of FSE’s demand to provide at least 66 per cent of tickets for all European finals to supporters of the teams involved. Fans of competing teams need to be given clear priority over public sale options.

“Based on previous experiences, a higher allocation of tickets for general sale will significantly fuel black market ticket activity, exploiting fans’ loyalty in the process.”

UEFA confirmed on Tuesday morning that each of the finalists for the Europa League will receive 12,000 tickets for the match, where capacity at the Aviva Stadium will be 48,000.

The tickets allocated to the fans of the finalists will be the cheapest on offer at 40 euros (just over £34) each, with general sale tickets starting at 65 euros (£55.70) each.

The two teams reaching the Champions League final will receive 25,000 tickets each for Wembley, with those tickets also the cheapest available at £60.

UEFA has been approached for a response to FSE’s statement.

UEFA’s general secretary Theodore Theodoridis admitted last month that staging the Europa League final in Dublin could prove “extremely challenging” and revealed the 82,000-capacity Croke Park had been reserved as a potential fan zone.

At the time he made those comments, there was still the possibility of a final between Liverpool and Rangers, two clubs with large followings on the island of Ireland, but the Scottish side were knocked out in the last 16 by Benfica.

However, a number of challenging scenarios remain, not least an all-Premier League encounter in what would be Jurgen Klopp’s final match as Liverpool boss should the Reds make it.

Lee McCulloch envisages the cinch Premiership title race going to the last day of the season because he still believes stuttering Celtic have too much quality to let in-form Rangers pull away in the run-in.

The Hoops looked destined for a procession to a third successive championship as Rangers floundered under Michael Beale early in the campaign.

However, Philippe Clement has galvanised the Ibrox side since his arrival in October, hauling them right back into the mix, with Brendan Rodgers’ side dropping points in six of their last 17 games.

Celtic currently top the table by a point, although Rangers have a game in hand, and McCulloch, who played for the Ibrox club from 2007 until 2015, feels it is still far too close to call.

“I don’t see an obvious favourite,” he told the PA news agency as he helped launch a July friendly between Manchester United and Rangers at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh.

“I can see it going as far as the last day. Celtic are getting players back, the likes of Cameron Carter-Vickers, Callum McGregor and Reo Hatate are massive players for Celtic, and you can’t disregard that.

“Celtic have maybe had their ups and downs in the last months and they’ve maybe not played to their capabilities this season but they’re a very good team.

“You can’t just disregard them and say ‘right, that’s it, Rangers are going to win the league’. There’s a lot of football to be played until the end of the season, so it will be interesting to see which players and which team holds their nerve.”

McCulloch noted that Rangers – with 19 wins from their last 22 league games – have “come on leaps and bounds” since Clement replaced Beale but he still feels they must prove they can handle the pressure of a title run-in.

“When you look back at the start of the season there was a disconnect between the players and the fans, so all credit goes to the manager for bringing a togetherness back,” he said.

“They’re now in a tremendous situation where if they win their game in hand they can go two points clear. The Old Firm games are going to be very important but, with just nine games to go, every game is going to be massive.

“I think there is definitely more pressure on Rangers now than there was at the start of the season but there is also pressure on Celtic because of the way they’ve played in the last couple of years and the dominance they’ve had. There is different types of pressure on the two teams.

“The bulk of the Celtic players will not really have had a pressured run-in but you could say the same for the Rangers players as well. It will be interesting to see over the final games how certain individuals and how the Rangers and Celtic squads react to the pressure.”

Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi is targeting qualifying for Europe via the Premier League after his side were knocked out of the Europa League by Roma.

The damage was done for Brighton in last week’s 4-0 defeat in Rome and Danny Welbeck’s stunning solo strike on Thursday night – to hand them a 1-0 second-leg win – was not enough to extend their maiden European campaign as they suffered a 4-1 aggregate defeat.

De Zerbi said: “Today we saw the real Brighton and saw our team play with pride. I am proud because I saw 11 Roberto’s on the pitch.

“I knew my players were capable of responding this way because they are special people and they were hurting like me after losing 4-0 away.

“I believe in my players and I know we can fight to reach another historical target. We have 10 games left in the league and we will fight to qualify for another European competition.”

Brighton were in need of a miracle as no team in Europa League history had ever come back from losing a first leg by four goals away from home to qualify.

Despite the hosts dominating the first half, it was Roma who had the ball in the net after 23 minutes through a spectacular overhead kick from Sardar Azmoun.

Their celebrations were cut short when the goal was harshly chalked off for a high boot, handing Brighton a lifeline.

Welbeck fired the Seagulls in front after 37 minutes, picking up the ball midway inside the Roma half before exchanging passes with Pervis Estupinan and curling the ball into the top corner from 20 yards.

Roma came closing to levelling on the night early in the second half when Italy international Leonardo Spinazzola saw his shot rebound off the angle of post and crossbar.

Ansu Fati had two second-half efforts saved, while defender Jan-Paul Van Hecke also missed the target with two headers as the hosts failed to add to Welbeck’s goal and set up a nervy finish for their visitors.

Roma boss Daniele De Rossi said: “Brighton fought and they tried hard.

“We knew they would start very strongly because they always do and especially tonight, given the scoreline from the first leg.

“We must always be ready to fight, but with a clear mind. We were a bit sloppy at times and suffered a little bit but overall it was a good performance.

“It was more or less the kind of game I was expecting. We should have exploited more situations on the counter.

“We scored a goal that apparently was a legal one that was disallowed so we should have killed off the tie a lot earlier.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes Mohamed Salah’s relentless drive to score goals will never end.

The Egypt international scored in the 6-1 Europa League demolition of Sparta Prague to bring up his 20th goal of the season, becoming the first player in the club’s history to reach that mark in seven successive campaigns.

“In seven years together with him, the one problem we never had was consistency,” said Klopp after the Egypt international’s first start since New Year’s Day after a hamstring injury.

“Mo is just delivering and delivering and delivering, his desire doesn’t stop, his quality is there and his desire to score doesn’t stop.

“He has improved in so many aspects since he started here. That’s how it is, he will not stop.

“I’m less surprised than maybe some others, I thought it had already happened to be honest, but he was injured for a while, otherwise he would have done it in January or February.

“But great, very good, and great to have him back.”

Salah also provided two assists for Bobby Clark and Cody Gakpo, who scored twice, with Darwin Nunez and Dominik Szoboszlai also on target.

He completed his first 90 minutes in two months but Klopp admitted he had wanted to rest him earlier.

“It was not the plan he plays 90 minutes, the plan was to take him off when we brought on Mateusz (Musialowski) but Bobby Clark said (he felt something) and Mo is experienced enough that he recovers during the game.

“I told him not to defend any more – I never told a player that before.”

Liverpool progressed to the quarter-finals 11-2 on aggregate after an early blitz ruled out any remote hopes of a comeback from the Czech champions.

“The boys started the game incredibly well and 4-0 up in 14 minutes is really strange. From then on it became a strange game because how can you now stay greedy?” said Klopp.

Sparta boss Brian Priske accepted his side had been totally outclassed.

“Big respect to Liverpool how they played these two legs, the level from Sparta to Liverpool is massive. It is a completely different level,” he said.

“We never faced something like this. Liverpool is a Champions League team and they should be playing in the Champions League.”

Brighton’s battling 1-0 win at home to Roma was not enough to stop Roberto De Zerbi’s side exiting the Europa League at the last-16 stage.

Danny Welbeck’s magnificent first-half strike saw the Seagulls to victory but they fell well short of completing the miracle comeback required to wipe away last week’s 4-0 first leg defeat in Rome, losing 4-1 on aggregate.

After playing ‘The Great Escape’ on the Amex Stadium PA system before kick-off, Brighton signalled their intent right from the start with left-back Pervis Estupinan sending a dangerous cross into the gloves of goalkeeper Mile Svilar after only 31 seconds.

Captain Lewis Dunk headed across the face of goal from Pascal Gross’ corner before later smashing a free-kick into the Roma wall.

Scotland midfielder Billy Gilmour also sent a volley over the crossbar after the Italians had only half cleared a Gross free-kick.

Roma’s first chance to get on the scoresheet came in the 15th minute as Sardar Azmoun dragged his shot wide after latching onto a loose Simon Adingra pass across his own penalty area.

The visitors looked to have opened the scoring eight minutes later through Azmoun’s overhead kick only for referee Felix Zwayer to harshly disallow the goal for a high boot.

That decision prompted an angry reaction from Roma boss Daniele De Rossi, who was shown a yellow card for his protests.

Brighton took the lead eight minutes before half-time courtesy of Welbeck’s spectacular strike.

The experienced former Arsenal and Manchester United striker picked up the ball midway inside the Roma half before playing a one-two with Estupinan and curling an unstoppable right-foot shot into the far corner from 20 yards out.

A fiery first half ended with eight yellow cards, including De Zerbi joining counterpart De Rossi in the referee’s notebook.

Another Brighton goal soon after the re-start would have set Roma nerves jangling and Julio Enciso tried to find it with a long-range shot that ended up well wide of the target.

Substitute Ansu Fati forced Svilar into a save when his cross-shot from wide on the left bounced awkwardly in front of the keeper.

Leonardo Spinazzola came within inches of putting Roma level on the night when he fired against the angle of post and crossbar following a mazy run.

Adingra should have done better in the 64th minute when heading straight at Svilar from point-blank range from an inviting Gross cross.

Jan Paul Van Hecke put a header wide from Welbeck’s looping cross and, while the home side dominated possession, they could not find any more goals as their first ever European campaign ended.

Mohamed Salah warmed up for Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United with a record-breaking goal in Liverpool’s 6-1 Europa League demolition of Sparta Prague at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were already virtually guaranteed a quarter-final place after their 5-1 first-leg victory but four goals in the opening 13-and-a-half minutes started the rout.

They were only the second team in major UEFA competition history to score four inside the first 14 minutes, after Chelsea against Jeunesse Hautcharage in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1971-72, but Salah is one for setting standards not matching them.

The Egypt international, playing his first 90 minutes since New Year’s Day – due to the African Nations Cup and the hamstring injury he sustained playing in the tournament – scored the third goal for his 20th of the campaign.

It was the seventh-successive season he has reached the milestone and the first time any Liverpool player in their 132-year history had achieved such a feat.

If he needed any tuning up before the trip to Old Trafford then the Czech champions provided it as he also claimed two assists in that early blitz, with 19-year-old Bobby Clark benefiting to score his first goal for the club and Cody Gakpo turning home his cross from close range.

Darwin Nunez opened the scoring with a clinical strike from 16 yards – just seven minutes earlier – with the best of the quartet but that was forgotten in the blur of goals which followed as Sparta’s players were left chasing shadows and questioning their own abilities.

When the fourth goal went in, captain Ladislav Krejci, whose mistake had led to the second, called a crisis meeting in the middle of the pitch.

It all seemed a bit futile as even though their task at kick-off was an improbable one, their defending was so naive it bordered on the embarrassing.

Midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai, who added the fifth two minutes into the second half, crossed for Nunez to clip home a shot in the seventh minute for his 17th of the season and his sixth in as many games.

But instead of keeping it tight, the visitors continued to play out from the back and when Salah charged down Krejci, the rebound fell kindly for Clark to slot under goalkeeper Peter Vindahl.

The favour was returned when Clark muscled Jaroslav Zleny off the ball 25 yards out to tee up Salah to curl home his milestone goal, Gakpo then turning home the Egyptian’s cross from close range after more sloppy defending.

Nunez ballooned over Liverpool’s easiest chance from six yards from another Salah cross before Conor Bradley’s fierce drive was parried by the goalkeeper.

Veljko Birmancevic held off the backtracking Wataru Endo to poke a shot past Caoimhin Kelleher just before the break but it was a brief respite as, after Nunez, Endo and Joe Gomez were replaced during the interval, Szoboszlai’s near-post drive took a deflection on the way in.

When Vindahl’s punch at a corner only reached the edge of the area Harvey Elliott fired in a low shot which Gakpo touched in with a cheeky backheel.

The Netherlands international wasted a glorious chance for his hat-trick, blazing over with only the goalkeeper to beat and despite taking his tally to 13 for the season, he is unlikely to start at the weekend.

Klopp’s preferred front three of Salah, Nunez and Luis Diaz will have 48 goals between them and the team as a whole have 117 goals in 45 games.

They will fancy their chances against a United side who have kept just four clean sheets – three of which came against mid-tabled League One opponents Wigan and Premier League strugglers Nottingham Forest and Everton – since they became the only club in the last 55 matches to prevent Liverpool scoring in a goalless draw in December.

Rangers manager Philippe Clement was proud of his players despite their narrow defeat by Benfica.

The Light Blues were in a good position to reach the Europa League quarter-finals following a 2-2 draw in Lisbon last week but they fell just short against the Portuguese champions.

Rangers were caught on the counter-attack as Rafa Silva netted the only goal of the second leg in the 66th minute at Ibrox.

Clement said: “It was a close tie but I’m proud of what my players showed. We played a better game than we did in Lisbon, better on the ball, but you need to be on your toes to compete with this kind of team with a much bigger budget.

“Everyone did that, everybody raised their level. Then you need to take your moments and we didn’t take enough, and they took theirs.”

The goal originated from a Rangers corner. The visitors emerged with the ball on the edge of their box and the home side did not have a player within 20 yards of their own half.

A simple ball forward was headed on by Angel Di Maria and Silva raced clear of Mohamed Diomande before slotting home.

The offside flag was raised but the VAR officials decided Silva was just inside his half when Di Maria headed the ball on.

Clement said: “We made a wrong decision for the goal. If Dio just runs with the attacker then nothing happens.

“But he is a young player who played for the first time at this level and he played a really good game.”

When pressed on why Rangers looked so exposed at their own corners, Clement said: “They have a lot of quality, that’s one thing. The goal against, we made the wrong decision.

“I don’t think they created a lot of chances from that. We also had counter attacks in the first half from set-pieces.”

Rangers struggled to create chances to get back in the game until substitute Todd Cantwell stabbed wide in stoppage-time and Clement admitted his injury list had taken its toll.

“At the moment we don’t have the same impact we had a few months ago,” he said. “All the guys who came in have come out with injury. It’s about hard work now to make them better again.

“Like Todd, if you only have one training session after eight weeks out you cannot expect miracles. You need to be lucky.

“It could have happened. He had one moment at the end which was just past the post. You gamble on that.

“That’s the situation and everyone is working very hard to get a bigger squad fit for the next few weeks and months.”

David Moyes hailed a “brilliant achievement” after West Ham reached another European quarter-final by flattening Freiburg 5-0.

Hammers boss Moyes uncharacteristically named an attacking line-up in a bid to repair the damage of the 1-0 Europa League first-leg defeat in Germany last week.

He was rewarded with a sparkling display as goals from Lucas Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen, Aaron Cresswell and two from Mohammed Kudus – including a sensational solo effort – secured a 5-1 aggregate win and a place in a the last eight of a European competition for a third-successive season.

“I’m hugely pleased with the goals and the level of the performance and how well the players have done,” said Moyes.

“We were really unhappy from the first game, the staff and the players. We thought we should not have come out with the result we had. We had to put it right and thankfully we did.

“I think for West Ham to be three years in a row for quarter-finals in European competition, I am not sure it has been done before in the club’s history.

“For where we have come from, to be in another quarter-final is a brilliant achievement. The club has moved on so much. We want to try to make it better if we can.”

Paqueta slid West Ham in front after nine minutes before Bowen celebrated his latest call-up to the England squad in style, shrugging off the attentions of Freiburg captain Christian Gunter before lashing the ball home from 20 yards.

Freiburg still posed a threat, though, with Roland Sallai firing across goal and wide just to let West Ham know the tie was still very much in the balance at half-time.

That lasted until six minutes into the second half, when Bowen’s square ball across the box was deflected out to Cresswell, lurking on the edge of the area.

The left-back, who was the fall guy in Frankfurt two years when his red card in the semi-final against Eintracht cost West Ham dearly, took a touch before leathering the ball inside the far post.

The best was still to come, despite there being little sign of danger when Kudus picked the ball up deep inside his own half.

The former Ajax wideman sprinted around 70 yards, slicing through the heart of the Freiburg defence before casually rolling the ball into the net.

“If anybody can remember dribbling wingers, who used to take people on, snake hips,” added Moyes.

“It was a brilliant individual goal, a Roy of the Rovers type.”

No wonder Kudus felt the need to borrow a photographer’s stool and sit down in front of the delirious home fans as his team-mates celebrated around him.

The rest had clearly done Kudus good, as he promptly collected Bowen’s lay-off and dispatched a low drive from 20 yards to complete West Ham’s five-star display.

As a consequence of their win, the Hammers may have also done some of their Premier League rivals a favour, with the result pushing England ahead of Germany in UEFA’s coefficient rankings, which could mean an extra spot in Europe next season.

An electric first-half display from Rafael Leao steered AC Milan into the Europa League quarter-finals as 10-man Slavia Prague succumbed 3-1 on the night and 7-3 on aggregate.

Just as they had in the first leg, the Czechs paid the price for a red card, Tomas Holes dismissed after just 17 minutes for a dangerous tackle on Davide Calabria.

The Rossoneri cashed in three times before the break, Leao lending a helping hand as Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek netted before bending in a spectacular strike of his own from distance.

Slavia had not lost at the Fortuna Arena all season but were unable to summon a serious battle for their Serie A opponents until Matej Jurasek grabbed a late consolation.

They did manage one attempt before the tie slipped irretrievably out of their grasp, Mojmir Chytil denied by the outstretched boot of Mike Maignan – the goalkeeper’s last real contribution before coming off injured.

Within a couple of minutes, Holes went studs first into a challenge with Calabria and saw red after a VAR check, leaving his side to face the majority of the match at a numerical disadvantage.

Jindrich Stanek kept the hosts in it with a pair of sharp saves but could not hold back the tide when Leao played in Pulisic, who rifled home after turning inside with a smart touch.

With the resistance broken, Milan wasted no time getting another, Loftus-Cheek providing the final touch after Theo Hernandez’s silky one-two with Leao put it on a plate for the Englishman.

With the pressure off, Fikayo Tomori will regret picking up a booking that will rule him out of the first leg of the quarter-finals but the celebrations resumed in added time before the break, the electric Leao letting fly with a beautiful curling effort from 30 yards.

The second half unfolded at a gentler pace, the home side focused on containment and the Italians emptying their bench in acknowledgement that they had wrapped things up.

Chances did occasionally appear, Lofus-Cheek slotting wide and Olivier Giroud aggrieved when he was unable to add his name to the scoresheet just after the hour mark.

To their credit, the Czech side did not lie down, firing a warning shot via Michal Tomic’s breakaway and then getting one back through Jurasek. He had only just come on when he picked up Christos Zafeiris’ pass and picked out the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the area.

David Moyes took the handbrake off West Ham and watched them race into the last eight of the Europa League with a 5-0 win over Freiburg.

Hammers boss Moyes uncharacteristically named an attacking line-up in a bid to repair the damage of the 1-0 first-leg defeat in Germany last week.

He was rewarded with a sparkling display as goals from Lucas Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen, Aaron Cresswell and two from Mohammed Kudus – including a sensational solo effort – secured a 5-1 aggregate win and a place in a European quarter-final for a third-successive season.

As a consequence the Hammers may have also done some of their Premier League rivals a favour, with the result pushing England ahead of Germany in UEFA’s coefficient rankings, which could mean an extra spot in Europe next season.

Despite some indifferent domestic form, West Ham – last season’s Europa Conference League winners – seem to come alive on these European nights.

Two years ago, at the same stage of the same competition, they memorably overturned a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Spanish Europa League specialists Sevilla.

There were fears that that crackling atmosphere might be difficult to recreate, with many fans unable to make the match due to the unusual 5.45pm kick-off time.

But the London Stadium was still almost full and it erupted after just nine minutes as Freiburg saw their advantage wiped out.

Cresswell swung in a third-successive corner, Tomas Soucek stooped to flick the ball on and the unmarked Paqueta slid it in at the far post.

Just after the half-hour mark, West Ham had their second as Bowen celebrated his latest call-up to the England squad in style, shrugging off the attentions of Freiburg captain Christian Gunter before lashing home from 20 yards.

Freiburg still posed a threat, though, with Roland Sallai firing across goal and wide just to let West Ham know the tie was still very much in the balance at half-time.

That lasted until six minutes into the second half, when Bowen’s square ball across the box was deflected out to Cresswell, lurking on the edge of the area.

The left-back, who was the fall guy in Frankfurt two years when his red card in the semi-final against Eintracht cost West Ham dearly, took a touch before leathering the ball inside the far post.

The best was still to come, despite there being little sign of danger when Kudus picked the ball up deep inside his own half.

The former Ajax wideman sprinted around 70 yards, slicing through the heart of the Freiburg defence before casually rolling the ball into the net.

No wonder Kudus felt the need to borrow a photographer’s stool and sit down in front of the delirious home fans as his team-mates celebrated around him.

The rest had clearly done Kudus good, as he promptly collected Bowen’s lay-off and dispatched a low drive from 20 yards to complete West Ham’s five-star display.

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