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EUROPA LEAGUE Ro16 - 1st LEG: Liverpool dominate Man Utd to draw first blood

Liverpool are in a strong position in their Europa League Round of 16 tie with arch enemies Manchester United.

The Reds dominated the very first European meeting between the traditional rivals, scoring a 2-0 victory at Anfield.

As expected, it was a hot start between Jurgen Klopp and Louis van Gaal's men and it was the German's side who struck first when Memphis Depay was booked for tugging on the shirt of Nathaniel Clyne as the right-back broke into the area.

Daniel Sturridge stepped up and confidently put his 20th-minute spot-kick away, although David De Gea did manage to get finger tips to the shot.

The Reds were all over their north west rivals and should have been two ahead when Philippe Coutinho had a chance to sink his boot through the ball from close range only to see the weak effort, with the outside of his right foot, clawed away by the brilliant De Gea.

The Spaniard was becoming busier as the half progressed and again stood up when making himself big to block Sturridge's fierce half-volley before later pulling off a great instinctive reaction save to deny Adam Lallana's close range volley.

Van Gaal's men were lucky only to be one goal down at the break and it prompted the Dutchman to make a curious change when he replaced teenage striker Marcus Rashford with veteran midfielder Michael Carrick, and changing his formation to deploy Daley Blind as a wingback, plonking Carrick into central defence.

The alterations worked early in the second half as United enjoyed an improved spell of play but still De Gea was the saviour, thwarting efforts from Coutinho and Clyne.

Ultimately, however, the option to go with three in defence worked against van Gaal as Carrick made a huge error when failing to clear his lines which allowed Lallana to play a short ball to Roberto Firmino who coolly finished with his left foot in front of the Kop in the 73rd minute.

It was the Brazilian's third goal in his past three outings and eighth in 2016 after scoring just once in the first half of the season.

United failed to gain a proper foothold in proceedings as they chased at least an away goal and in the end, it was a desperately disappointing night for the Red Devils who will need to improve out of sight at Old Trafford next week if they want to overturn this deficit.

2015/16 UEFA Europa League - Round of 16 first leg

Liverpool (ENG): 2 (Daniel Sturridge (PEN) 20', Roberto Firmino 73')
Manchester United (ENG): 0
Anfield, Livepool, England

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Andrew Slevison
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