Coutinho deflates United to help Liverpool reach Europa League quarters

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Manchester, March 18 (IANS) English football club Liverpool overcame the challenge of old rivals Manchester United to reach their first European quarter-final for six years after playing out a 1-1 draw in the second leg to win 3-1 on aggregate in the Europa League.

Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho’s brilliant goal helped Liverpool win the round of 16 tie here on Thursday. They led 2-0 after the first leg.

United halved the first-leg deficit through Anthony Martial’s spot kick, Liverpool deflated their hosts with Coutinho’s equalising goal on the stroke of half-time.

It was a wonderful solo effort as the Brazilian left defender Guillermo Varela in his wake on a diagonal dash from the left side of the box before beating goalkeeper David de Gea with a lovely finish.

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It was a much improved display from United. But there was realistically no way back after Coutinho’s equaliser and Liverpool ultimately held on comfortably for a 1-1 draw and 3-1 overall victory in the all-English Europa League showpiece.

In an exciting first half, United began at a good tempo and created several good chances, the first in the 19th minute when Marcos Rojo’s cross reached the unmarked Jesse Lingard who failed to beat Simon Mignolet with his header.

United’s purposeful start got its reward after 32 minutes with Martial’s penalty. The Frenchman won the kick when vrpught down by Nathaniel Clyne and he sored from the resultant penalty.

The problem for United was containing Liverpool’s attacking talents. Striker Daniel Sturridge rattled the crossbar with an angled free-kick. Just before the break, Coutinho duly took it on himself to level matters and effectively book Liverpool’s last-eight place.

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