UEFA Europa League
Round of 16, first-leg
Anfield, Liverpool, England
21′ Sturridge (P)
Liverpool beat rivals Manchester United 2-0 in the first-leg of their Round of 16 Europa League tie at Anfield.
Goals from Daniel Sturridge from the penalty spot and a second-half strike from Roberto Firmino gave the Reds a two goal advantage to take to Old Trafford for the second-leg.
In a rather scrappy first-half, the first real action of note came in the 18th minute when Memphis Depay brought down former Southampton full-back Nathaniel Clyne in the penalty area to concede a penalty. The Dutchman first tugged Clyne outside the area before clipping his heels inside the box and the referee eventually pointed to the spot.
The resulting spot-kick was taken by Sturridge, who stuttered in his run-up before firing home to put Liverpool ahead despite David De Gea getting a hand to it.
A minute later the hosts should have made it two. A Sturridge effort, that looked to be going wide, was met by Philippe Coutinho who had to score, but his scuffed effort was somehow clawed away by De Gea.
Eight minutes later the Reds went close again. A cross from the right fell kindly to Sturridge after Chris Smalling lost his footing in the area,but with just De Gea to beat, the striker could only hit it at the Spaniard.
In the 35th minute, the visitors, who rarely threatened in the first half, were surviving – much to the credit of De Gea. In fact, the closest they went to finding a leveler was when Depay fired wide from a freekick.
Six minutes later De Gea saved the visitors again. Firmino picked out Adam Lallana in the area and the former Southampton man volleyed goalwards, but his effort was instinctively palmed away by the Spaniard.
The visitors needed a response and during the interval, they brought on Michael Carrick for youngster Marcus Rashford, who couldn’t make much of an impact.
The visitors started the second period well with Morgan Schneiderlin testing Simon Mignolet in the 50th minute.
Three minutes later, the hosts went close to extending their lead. Coutinho fired an effort on the half-volley but De Gea was there to tip it over.
In the 66th minute it was Clyne’s turn to force De Gea into another save. The full-back created a yard of space before firing a swerving effort that De Gea palmed away.
Two minutes later the hosts should have got their second. Lallana did well to get to the byline before pulling the ball back to his skipper Jordan Henderson but he could only fire wide after letting the ball run.
The hosts were knocking on the door, and the inevitable happened five minutes later, when substitute Carrick made a hash of a clearance from what was a straightforward Henderson cross. Lallana got onto the resulting loose ball to find Firmino who slotted home into the near post.
The visitors still had time to snatch a goal to take back to Old Trafford, but Marouane Fellaini headed just wide of the post from a cross from substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The Belgian was fortunate to remain on the pitch. He was already on a booking and towards the latter stages of the game, Fellaini elbowed Can off the ball.
The Belgian, known for his off-the-ball antics, was very lucky to escape without a second booking at the very least. Should UEFA decide not to take retrospective action, the visitors would be very lucky to have him for the second-leg.
That was the last action of the match as the referee blew his whistle to bring the Round of 16 first-leg to an end. The result meant that Liverpool have the advantage and are now 90 minutes away from a place in the quarter-finals, whilst the Manchester United have a lot of work to do if they are to overturn the two-goal deficit.