Liverpool were made to battle for a place in the Europa League last 16 as Sparta Prague showed plenty of attacking ambition but Dirk Kuyt’s header sent the Reds through 1-0 on the night and on aggregate.
Liverpool are now unbeaten in ten European games at Anfield and they were given a scare by Sparta who had positive intentions from the start and gave the Reds defence problems throughout without really threatening keeper Pepe Reina.
David Ngog had chances for the host’s but kept fluffing his lines and even when chances were created Jaromir Blazek in the visitor’s goal proved equal to the task.
Sparta have now lost their last three games in England although with five minutes remaining they probably thought that extra time was looming.
But from a Raul Meireles corner Kuyt headed home from inside the six-yard box and a date against Lech Poznan or SC Braga in the next round.
As has been typical of Liverpool’s campaign it was not a vintage performance but at least under Kenny Dalglish they are now grinding out the results.
Referee: Milorad Mazic (SRB)
Liverpool scorers: Kuyt 85
Sparta Prague scorers:
05 Agger (Skrtel 85)
34 Kelly (yellow card) (Carragher (46yellow card)
21 Lucas (yellow card)
28 Poulsen (yellow card) (Spearing 65)
38 Abena (Pekhart 78)
03 Pamic (yellow card) (Keric 90)
07 Sionko (Podany 73)
08 Matejovsky (yellow card)
09 Leonard Kweuke (yellow card)