Liverpool enjoy themselves against carefree LASK as best news of the night comes from elsewhere

Dave Tickner
Cody Gakpo celebrates his second goal in a 4-0 Liverpool win against LASK
Cody Gakpo celebrates his second goal against LASK

The best news of a pretty perfect night for Liverpool came not from their own 4-0 win over LASK – a result that had about it an air of inevitability even before Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo confirmed it inside 15 minutes – but from across the Channel where Toulouse were failing to beat Union St Gilloise.

It’s a combination of results that means Liverpool are now certain of finishing top of their Europa League group, have avoided the threat of the extra fixtures and hassle of a tricky play-off round against a Champions League drop-out and now need not worry themselves about this competition again until March.

That’s a lovely spot to be in and this also appeared to be a lovely match to play in. And much of the credit – or blame, depending where you sit on the Jose Mourinho Miserabilism Index – for that lies with LASK.

The Austrians came to Anfield determined to have a go, and stayed true to that guiding principle even after those two early goals appeared to herald the imminent arrival of a defeat far heftier than the eventual 4-0 margin.

It was brave and noble and quite possibly recklessly stupid, but you did find yourself admiring the sight of this wildly overmatched team once again committing four or five players to yet another fruitless but fun counter-attack. Few would have begrudged them the goal their endeavour and boldness merited, but in truth they tended to come quite pointedly unstuck once important final decisions had to be made over any pass or cross or shot.

Liverpool for their part could certainly have been more ruthless and were perhaps a touch guilty at times of overcomplicating things when their goals generally arrived via simpler, more direct but no less eye-catching routes.

LASK gave Liverpool room to play, and Liverpool obliged. Tougher nights await both domestically and in this competition, but this was all tremendously good fun. Mo Salah, a man seemingly allergic to rest, buzzed around menacingly for an hour before Jurgen Klopp finally withdrew him just after a penalty earned him a 199th Liverpool goal. Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo had a rare old time feeding off him and enjoying far more space and time than they anticipated.

With the result here pretty much nailed down so early, what tension there was came from checking the news from Toulouse. Liverpool’s chaotic and dramatic and controversial defeat there a few weeks ago need trouble us no more. They couldn’t break down USG and cannot now catch Klopp’s team.

It’ll be interesting to see precisely what team Liverpool take to Brussels for their final group game.

With Liverpool’s third goal here – which took a good deal longer to arrive than most would’ve expected when the second went in on 15 minutes – Klopp took the chance to make his first changes. LASK players hoping their evening was about to get more straightforward instead saw Trent Alexander-Arnold, Darwin Nunez and Curtis Jones introduced.

It was only in the final 10 minutes that youngsters Conor Bradley and Luke Chambers got some minutes. It’s likely to be a slightly different story for those guys and others for that Union SG game now. Although Salah will still start, obviously.