Liverpool have one foot in the Europa League Quarter-Finals

Liverpool will take a 2-0 lead to Old Trafford after victory at home to Manchester United in the Europa League Round of Sixteen tie tonight.

Goals from Daniel Sturridge, from the penalty spot, and Roberto Firmino decided this first-leg meeting.

With eight European Cup/Champions League titles between, and a wealth of European experience between them. this was always going to be a fascinating encounter. This was actually the first ever meeting in European competition between these two arch-rivals.

United made three changes: Guillermo Varela, Marouane Fellaini and Morgan Schneiderlin coming in for Matteo Darmian, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick.

For Liverpool, Christian Benteke was on the bench as Jurgen Klopp also made three changes: Nathaniel Clyne, Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho starting, with Christian Benteke on the bench.

An early yellow card for Jordan Henderson could have set the tone for another spiky encounter between these two clubs, he went into the book for a high tackle on Schneiderlin.

It was the home side who took the lead on nineteen minutes when Clyne’s burst into the United box was abruptly halted by Memphis Depay, who was booked. Sturridge’s penalty just beating David De Gea, who got a hand to it but could not keep the ball out.

It almost got worse for United three minutes later, De Gea denying Coutinho brilliantly after a Sturridge cut-back.

Indeed, the Spanish stopper was the only reason that Liverpool aren’t already through, denying the Reds time and again.

He kept out efforts from Sturridge and Adam Lallana as Liverpool threatened to run riot.

Dejan Lovren and United starlet Marcus Rashford went into the book just before half-time. Indeed, Rashford was sacrificed, replaced by Michael Carrick as Louis van Gaal looked to bring his side back into the game.

United started to grow into the game, but De Gea was once again at his best to deny Coutinho.

But Carrick mishit a clearance in the 73rd minute, only finding Lallana. He slotted the ball to Firmino, who doubled the lead.

Not even the sight of Bastian Schweinsteiger coming on for his first appearance since 9 January could guide United back into the game with a crucial away goal.

Indeed, United can thank De Gea for keeping the score down, but it still looks a tough task in the return leg.

 

By Steve Osborne               @BlizzardSteve75

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