Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United
Goals in either half from Daniel Sturridge, a penalty, and Roberto Firmino put Liverpool in control of the all-Premier League round of 16 tie.
Article top media content
- Daniel Sturridge breaks deadlock with 20th-minute penalty
- Roberto Firmino extends hosts' lead 17 minutes from time
- United improve in second half but fail to trouble Simon Mignolet
- No players incur suspensions for Old Trafford return match
- The second leg is next Thursday, with the quarter-final draw the following day
It is advantage Liverpool after the first European meeting between English football's two most-titled teams ended in a 2-0 UEFA Europa League round of 16 victory for Jürgen Klopp's side.
Daniel Sturridge put them ahead with a first-half penalty and Roberto Firmino doubled the first-leg advantage 17 minutes from time to provide a more accurate reflection of Liverpool's superiority on the night.
Liverpool began with an urgency epitomised by Jordan Henderson flying into an early challenge on Morgan Schneiderlin that brought the game's first yellow card. The reward for their bright start came when Nathaniel Clyne surged into the box onto a Coutinho pass and went down under Memphis Depay's challenge. Sturridge sent the ball to David de Gea's right, the Spaniard getting a hand to it in vain.
Liverpool were setting the tempo and Coutinho should have added a second goal as he arrived to meet Sturridge's ball to the far post but the Brazilian's right-boot flick lacked sufficient power, enabling the scrambling De Gea to make the save. De Gea came to the rescue again on the half-hour when Chris Smalling's slip in the area gave Sturridge a clear sight of goal, yet while he connected cleanly De Gea threw himself in the way.
United had actually had the match's first chance of note, with Marcus Rashford probably surprised to find himself free in the box when a Memphis cross came over and the ball bounced away off his knee. Louis van Gaal removed Rashford at the break and introduced Michael Carrick, as United switched to a back three with Carrick joining Smalling and Marcos Rojo in a restructured defence.
United's work rate improved in the second period and they got a foothold in the midfield but they were unable to open up Liverpool's defence. Indeed, but for De Gea, Coutinho would have claimed a long-range second goal. Henderson also lifted a shot over from Adam Lallana's cutback and eventually Liverpool extended their lead. Carrick's error let in Lallana who teed up Firmino to beat De Gea from close range.
Feel the noise
Recent European nights at Anfield have been relatively subdued affairs but this was a full-volume occasion built up as the "Mother Of All Games" on the back page of the day's Liverpool Echo. A banner in the Kop showing five European Cups was a defiant pre-match message to the visiting United fans and the chorus of You'll Never Walk Alone was another. It was a proper cup tie atmosphere and it brought the best out of Klopp's men.
De Gea v Liverpool
Liverpool would have won by four or five but for the excellence of De Gea in the United goal. Arguably the best of a string of stops was his flying save in the 55th minute to tip over Coutinho's goalbound half-volley. He had even got a hand to Sturridge's spot kick but was left helpless when Firmino made it two.
Van Gaal switch not enough
Before this game Louis van Gaal had a 100% record from four meetings with Liverpool. It ended here despite a United improvement in the second period when the change to a back three gave United an extra body in midfield. Even then, United did not force a single serious save out of Simon Mignolet in the home goal.