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Published: 21:08 | 17/3/16

Coutinho shines as Liverpool go through


Liverpool are through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League after securing a 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Round of 16 second leg tie.

Leading 2-0 from last week's first leg at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp's side progressed 3-1 on aggregate past a spirited but limited United side.

Anthony Martial's 32nd minute penalty had given Louis van Gaal's side a lifeline in the tie, but Philippe Coutinho deflated the mood with a brilliant equaliser on the stroke of half-time to chalk up a crucial away goal for the visitors.

United set an intense tempo from the first whistle, with Juan Mata placed out wide to take on Liverpool's makeshift left-back James Milner, and United right-back Guillermo Varela given a licence to get forward.

The home side saw plenty of the ball in the opening stages, and just before the midway point of the first half spurned two golden chances to take the lead.

The first came on 19 minutes, an unconvincing header from Jesse Lingard from Marcos Rojo's cross that was easily beaten away by Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, then seconds later Juan Mata volleyed wide of the far post from a Marouane Fellaini header.

Chasing the game and needing to claw back a two-goal first-leg deficit, United were at risk of being caught on the break, with Liverpool's attacking trident of Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino ever alert to a counter.

And it was Coutinho who almost silenced Old Trafford on 29 minutes, with his low shot forcing a smart save from United goalkeeper de Gea.

But the home fans turned up the volume three minutes later, when Martial netted from the spot after the Frenchman had drawn a clumsy tackle from Nathaniel Clyne in the area.

Play continued to swing from one end to the other, with Jordan Henderson shooting high and over when found unmarked in the box by Coutinho's superb reverse pass, then Marcos Rojo drilling wide after Fellaini had kept alive a long ball into the box.

But, on the stroke of half-time, Liverpool netted the all-important away goal, as Coutinho darted away from a hopelessly out of position Varela down the left channel then dinked a delicate finish past de Gea at the near post.

That left United needing to score three more times to go through, a feat they last managed against Liverpool in April 2003, and a deflated Old Trafford crowd knew the game was up and the tie was over.

They did make the occasional chance in the second period, with Fellaini heading straight at Mignolet from Michael Carrick's cross on the hour, then shooting over the bar from Marcus Rashford's pass 13 minutes later.

But the second half action was, in truth, just a visual backdrop to 45 minutes of ecstatic singing from the visiting supporters, with the Liverpool fans chanting the name of Coutinho and Klopp long and loud into the Salford skyline as United huffed and puffed.



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